Italian museum uses cameras to gauge the attractiveness of art

The ShareArt system calculates how many visitors look at a painting and how much time they spend with it.


We've seen augmented reality bring art to the great outdoors, but Italy's museums are now using cameras to measure the appeal of paintings instead. The country's agency for R&D has developed a new system that can measure how long you look at and how close you get to a work of art. ENEA's cameras are placed in the vicinity of artworks to collect data on the amount of observers and their behavior as they stare at the pieces. The collated info defines the “attraction value” of works of art, the researchers behind it told Bloomberg.

More broadly, the so-called ShareArt system is viewed as a way of boosting visitors to museums and galleries after a period of disruptive lockdowns. It could ultimately be used to give certain works more prominence in a collection. The data could also result in changes to the staging of a piece, including how paintings and sculptures are lit and placed in relation to one another.


Though it dates back to 2016, museums like the Istituzione Bologna Musei have only recently begun rolling out the ShareArt system, notes Bloomberg. Thanks to the tech, researchers are already gaining surprising insights into the way we perceive and interact with art. They found that the average artwork observation time is just four to five seconds, with very few pieces capturing visitors' attention for longer than 15 seconds. They add that if mask restrictions are dropped, the system will be able to track facial observations without compromising privacy, allowing the team to monitor cognitive reactions, too.

The ShareArt tool is the latest example of art melding with technology. On the other end of the spectrum, machine learning systems are already mimicking the styles of famous painters and dreaming up psychedelic works of their own. While AR-powered smartphone apps have put entire exhibitions in our pockets.