Google Arts & Culture app goes viral with new selfie feature

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

The Google Arts & Culture app has been around since 2016, but it wasn’t until Google (GOOG, GOOGL) introduced a new selfie feature that the app went viral in a big way.

Google Arts & Culture rolled out a feature allowing people who took selfies with the app to get matched up with faces from museum artworks around the world. The app quickly rocketed to the top and became the No. 1 free app in Google’s and Apple’s (AAPL) app stores this past weekend. Celebrities like Kristen Bell, Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani, and actress Minnie Driver posted screen grabs of their selfies, and many social media users saw their feeds and streams flooded with friends and followers doing the same. (Although if you live in Illinois and Texas, you won’t be able to use the new feature because of privacy laws.)

Kristen Bell instagramming about Google Arts & Culture app
Minnie Driver instagrams about Google Arts & Culture app

“People love the idea of selfies and sharing their photos,” explained Susan Etlinger, an analyst at the San Francisco-based Altimeter Group. “That’s just one of the drivers of the internet today. And to connect that back to art is amazing. It’s just a really fun experiment to see what it [the app] comes up with.”

Google Arts & Culture is the latest app to go viral because of its selfie feature. The app also lets users explore thousands of photos, videos and artworks, from images of Mayan glyphs to a collection African wood, metal and stone carvers.

The article’s author trying out Google Arts & Culture’s new selfie feature, which went viral last weekend. Accurate or nah? Source: Yahoo Finance

In June 2016, an app called Prisma also quickly became popular when it used artificial intelligence and image recognition to offer photo filters that transformed your photos into an illustration inspired by the styles of famous artists, including Edvard Munch, Edgar Degas and Piet Mondrian. Similarly, Prisma users flooded social media with their photos, although not quite to the same star-studded extent as Google Arts & Culture users.

What remains to be seen with Google Arts & Culture’s recent success is whether it’s just a passing fad or whether this latest social media phenomenon has more longevity to it. To wit, although Prisma has been downloaded 50 million times since it launched, the company behind it recently switched its focus from consumers to developers.

Regardless, expect to see more artful side-by-side selfies flood your social media in the days to come.

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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