CERN artwork authentication technology wins ArtTech award

After Lausanne, Geneva and Venice, the fourth edition of the ArtTech Forum continued its tour online last Thursday 5 November. Like other events, the pandemic left no other choice. However, a digital version was conveniently consistent with the idea behind the platform imagined by Patrick Aebischer and directed by Nathalie Pichard to bring the world of art and technology closer together.

As talked about by leading industry figures such as Mathieu Jaton, the chief executive of Montreux Jazz, or Thierry Frémaux, the head of Cannes Film Festival, there are no shortage of examples of possible paths for museums, festivals or theatres, all strongly impacted by the current crisis. Eight start-ups selected by an international jury also illustrated this potential. The public chose InsightArt for the ArtTech Foundation's CHF 20,000 prize.

Why it's interesting. From the increasing presence of streaming platforms to augmented reality applications in museums, the digital revolution is already well established in the cultural industries. However, the pandemic is forcing creators, performers and institutions to adapt to a world that has suddenly become less fluid.

The ArtTech forum and its choice of start-ups sketch out this evolution of technologies that will be indispensable tomorrow for the creation as well as the consumption of artistic and cultural content. The choice of InsightArt and its technology for authenticating works of art from CERN illustrates the importance of fundamental research in fuelling innovation in the cultural field.

The selected start-ups. Out of 30 start-ups selected by the jury, eight were invited to present themselves to the public, which then chose the winner.


The Czech start-up InsightArt has created the RToo robot, which parallels two robotic arms, with an X-ray emitter on one side and a Timepix detector developed by CERN and 17 research institutes on the other. Works of art are scanned by analysing the different energy levels of the photons that have passed through the object. With the help of an X-ray source, they are transformed into electronic signals. Instead of assigning grey levels like conventional X-rays, this scanner assigns different colours corresponding to the different pigments. This technology guides restorers and has already made it possible to authenticate paintings by masters such as Raphael, Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh.

AI Music

Finding a piece of music to illustrate a film, an advertisement or even the streaming of a videoconference remains a complex process of research, negotiation of rights and adjustment of formats. Based in London, AI Music has developed a "music as a service" model inspired by the software industry. Its music generation engine creates music that is adapted in terms of atmosphere, rhythm and instrumentation to the permutations desired by the user. This personalised content is sold through a simple licence. AI Music's founder, SIavash Mahdavi, created Within, a software developer for 3D printing that was sold to Autodesk for $88 million.


Founded by employees of Disney Research and ETH Zurich, Animatico uses machine learning and language recognition to create interactive animated characters on digital screens. Intended for interactive kiosks, for example, these avatars listen, dialogue and guide users in a much more intuitive way than traditional drop-down menus. In Switzerland alone, there are more than 5,000 interactive kiosks used for food ordering, flight and hotel check-ins, visitor management, etc.


This Israeli start-up uses artificial intelligence software to determine what motivates art collectors in their acquisitions. This allows galleries and auction houses to send personalised recommendations to their clients rather than catalogues in which they often get lost. The company works with some 20 auction houses around the world.


Presented as a tablet, Erae Touch is a new type of music controller. It responds to the pressure of fingers or drum sticks on the silicone surface that surrounds its sensors. The company's ambition is to bridge the gap between electronic music and human expression. The French company has also been invited to join the Danish accelerator, which is part of the platform for innovative sound and technology start-ups.

Music Traveler

Billy Joel, John Malkovich, Hans Zimmer. The sponsors of the Austrian application Music Traveler are prestigious to say the least. Essentially this application is an AirBnB for musicians. As it is difficult to travel with a piano to rehearse or to find a place that is soundproof enough not to disturb the neighbourhood, this application connects people who have their own rehearsal room with traveling professional or amateur musicians. Since its launch in 2018, the application has convinced more than 12,000 regular users.


Around 98 per cent of manuscripts not ordered by a publishing company are rejected without even being read. A medium-sized publisher receives about 200 manuscripts per month and it would take 1,300 working hours to process this enormous amount of texts. Geraldine and Jonas Navid Al-Nemri created Sriptbakery to use artificial intelligence in the analysis of potential books. Located in Freiburg, Germany, the start-up is digitising the reception and evaluation of texts and plans to develop a content distribution platform.


In Los Angeles, Splashmod is developing an audience engagement tool for virtual and face-to-face events. This allows users to display links, polls and calls to action directly on viewers' smartphones. Selected by the Techstars Music programme, the platform brings together some fifteen event-related software applications such as video editing, chats, analysis tools, etc. in a single mobile application.