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Smartify lets you identify unknown artworks instantly

Apps that cater to those with a passion for arts are few and far between, and Smartify is one that is seeking to make its mark on the art world by letting you instantly identify artworks at a museum or gallery.

Imagine this: As you are traipsing around the globe on your whirlwind holiday, you find yourself wandering into an obscure art gallery with the most beautiful masterpieces you have ever laid eyes on. But other than the name of the work, the artist, and probably the year it was created, there is nothing else to it – no profile of the artist and no backstory.

This is where Smartify enters the picture. You take a photograph of the said artwork, and it will instantly identify all the information related to it. Think of it as a more comprehensive art guide that’s already on your phone, so you don’t need to carry additional materials.

Launched at the Royal Academy of Arts in London early last month, Smartify has already built up a substantial database with over 30 museums, from the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and National Gallery in London to the slightly-obscure-but-fledgling Little Beaux Arts in Lyon. And it’s growing day by day, with plans to expand into Canada and Greece.

Museum-goers using Smartify to find out more about Sir George Hayter’s 1833 painting of The House of Commons at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

After scanning and identifying those artworks, you can also save them into your personal gallery which you can then share with other users who are on Smartify. What’s more, there are assistive features for users who are visually impaired, as the app can read out the information and history of the artwork out loud via a smartphone’s speakers.

Smartify is also working with Wikimedia (the nonprofit that supports our dearest Wikipedia) to increase the accuracy and speed in recognising artworks, as well as delivering better and more informative content to its users across multiple languages.

“We hope to reframe the use of mobile phones in the gallery space as engagement rather than distraction,” said Anna Lowe, co-founder of Smartify. And she makes a valid point there. When there are more than a thousand museum-goers a day at the Louvre shoving one another to take a selfie with the Mona Lisa instead of appreciating Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous (and arguably greatest) painting, there is an evident problem.

“We believe mobile holds the key to unlocking new kinds of visitor experience, which bring together the power of encountering great works of art face to face, with access to the rich storytelling and knowledge digital can deliver,” said Chris Michael, Digital Director at the National Gallery in London.

Smartify is available for free on both the iOS App Store and Android’s Google Play.

(All photos: Smartify)

Josiah Neo
Josiah Neo is a tech writer who contributes occasionally to the fashion, travel, and culture beats. When he’s not busy keeping up with the keynotes, he’s probably stuffing his face with the best Melbournian donuts (at Shortstop, BTW) or watching his favourite esports team, the Los Angeles Valiant, pummel their opponents into oblivion.
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