Hasha Drabek and Hannah Jiao are co-founders of Meetin Gallery, an AI integrated application and database for the museum industry that identifies and encourages dialogue about works of art, with hopes of centralizing credible information and supporting museums and enthusiasts around the world.
Hasha is a graduate student studying Intelligent Systems Engineering. Hannah is a graduate student studying Human Computer Interaction/Design. Hasha had a coding and AI background that she wanted to apply to a business, and Hannah had a background as a journalist in knowing how people were starting to interact with art. The two met each other at the Shoebox Innovation Center and made the decision to work together with the help of Travis Brown, a senior executive dean at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, who overlooks the Shoebox Innovation Center.
The idea for Meetin Gallery came to life when Hannah read an article which found that young Chinese people were interested in visiting art galleries and museums. She wondered why people wanted to go to museums, even when they didn’t have extensive art history knowledge. She subsequently found out that young people had developed a certain “taste” for art, which drove them to visit art galleries and museums. Based on this information, she saw an opportunity to connect the people who were interested in art with interactive information and innovative technology.
Why are younger people going to museums?
Hannah: Because a lot of influencers on social media platforms made it popular to go to museums. Their followers observed this and followed suit. Around 2018, people started to have greater access to channels of information which educated them about different works of art. It caused people to care more about and ponder about, for example, why Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. They have the initiative and wherewithal or freedom to explore and expand their knowledge of art, even while being young. It may have started with influencers promoting the practice of going to museums; the museums quickly caught on and launched various workshops to get a larger audience.
What really is Meetin Gallery?
Hasha: When viewing a piece of art, it provides a platform that allows people to comment and voice your opinion like Reddit, and in addition to that, it pulls up a bunch of information about the art, more than the small paragraph that is usually written by the curator. It allows for multiple voices to be heard and creates an open dialogue. There is an aspect of social connection, in which you can add people who you have chatted with. Furthermore, you can see past works that they have commented on. On top of that, similar works may appear after viewing a certain artwork, which encourages viewers to not only expand their knowledge but visit them if accessible. Finally, a lot of museums lack digitized databases of their works, such as: past curation comments, past articles, or research. Our app naturally creates and uses a database, and therefore we are able to provide the museum with a digitized, centralized database service.
What stage are you at right now?
Hasha: We have chosen 50 pieces of art from the Eskenazi Museum of Art to be trained by our AI. We are currently working on the process of the AI aspect, using neural nets (which is how the AI learns the patterns) to streamline the interaction with the artworks, similar to how facial recognition works. Some people could say, “you could always use QR codes”, but then that wouldn’t be centralized – meaning, in a general sense, that it would be for specific curations only. Furthermore, the user is unaware of where the QR code would take them. It could be used maliciously. Instead, by using our AI technology, just by holding up your phone, the camera would take the data of the artwork, run it through our algorithm, and identify the artwork easily from the database, all in a safe and credible fashion. You can be standing at the back of the gallery, with people in the way, and get the exact information expected. Furthermore, if you were outside of a museum and saw an artwork, with no name or paragraph, if the artwork was trained in our database, you could get the information about the artwork.
How were you able to gather information from experts in the industry? (In other words, what does Meetin Gallery provide to museums?)
Hasha: We were able to talk to Art History professors who helped smooth out the process. Also, we were able to get their perspective on the idea, which most of them thought was not only innovative but valuable. They also helped us by shedding light on what museums go through and need. We learned that museums apply for various grants and for various reasons, among other things. Our application includes statistics, such as interaction information. It will show the number of people that interacted with a certain artwork over a specific amount of time. It is difficult for museums to develop these technologies, because they usually lack IT departments capable of developing these sorts of technologies to find and scrutinize data, which can ultimately be used to attract visitors. If we support them with these services, they may be able to use it to their advantage, not just financially but in the pursuit of greater appreciation of the artworks. Some current alternatives museums use are portable devices with earbuds that provide a commentary on certain artworks in an exhibition, but more often than not, this information is internal. Not only does the fragmentation of knowledge cause unproductive headaches for researching and organizing crucial information about artworks, it adds friction to an aggregation of knowledge that has the potential to build upon each other. On top of this, the social aspect of our application allows for an open dialogue about the artworks, which strengthens and increases the potential for a higher quality of knowledge, accessible around the world. This service provides exactly that. Additionally, our Art History professors have said that this centralization of art knowledge is very favorable because it introduces an avenue for advertising. When one piece of art is shown on the platform, it could display similar pieces located at different museums. Essentially, it encourages enthusiastic viewers to visit these other museums.
Hannah: On top of that, we observed the behaviors of museum visitors and talked to them to better understand how their overall experience could improve.
How soon will the technology come to fruition?
Hasha: For now, we have developed a simple first version, and are working on integrating the database with our application. Our product goal is to solve real problems and provide a simple solution for the art museum industry. Hopefully we could launch our product by the end of this semester.
What’s been the most helpful resource on-campus?
Hannah: The resources at the shoebox, access to lots of different experts across different fields, the ability to email them and go to their offices to talk to them, have all been invaluable. It is incredible to be surrounded by other young entrepreneurs who are in the same place we are. I’m really grateful that I’ve had access to this atmosphere and it has certainly helped us so far.
What’s been the most helpful resource outside of University?
Hasha and Hannah: Youtube and Google.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Hasha: Cold reaching out, meeting deadlines, and technical issues with AI. However, our main challenge is to narrow down our main function so that it’s not too confusing for people to understand how they can use it.
Are you open to connecting with other students?
Hannah: We are a fast growing startup and are open to people who are interested in working in the tech industry. You can reach out to me on Linkedln.