Creepy Digital Art Paints Itself
Google Research Blog
A few weeks back, researchers with Google's artificial neural networks team issued ablog post
about its A.I. system, Deep Dream, that could see pictures in clouds and even (arguably) create original art. Yesterday, a team of four engineering students atHack Reactor
announced via Popular Science, that they were coming out with an app calledDreamify
that used Deep Dream's source code to create psychedelic art out of ordinary images. It gets technical, and a little existential, but the basic gist is that by running an image recognition processes in reverse, an image recognition system was able to generate original images rather than just identify them. After training the system with thousands of images of a particular object -- a starfish, say -- the team discovered that the neural network would identify "starfishy" elements in other, unrelated images. The results are trippy, to say the least. But Deep Dream is not the first computer to generate art. We take a look at it here, along with some other examples of machine-generated art.See the Dreams of an Artificial Brain: Photos
Google Research Blog
Deep Dream can generate surprisingly compelling images, depending on what parameters are established when it first begins to process a picture. Each layer in a neural network builds on the ones beneath it, so running an image through lower layers tends to generate lines and simple patterns. In the higher-level layers, however, the network is looking for more sophisticated features and will tend to generate complex images and entire objects. When the Google team had Deep Dream process an image of a cloudy sky, it began creating images of fantastic hybrid animals like the "pig-snail" and the "camel-bird." Google's name for the process? "Inceptionism." In the image above, a neural network programmed to distinguish architectural and animal elements was cut loose on a landscape. The resulting output is therefore not based on any sample image -- it's purely a result of the A.I.'s "thoughts" on the issue.Photo First: Light Captured as Both Particle and Wave
Google has since published theDeepDream
source code, putting A.I. artistry in the hands of the people. Almost immediately after the code was made public, enterprising engineers and hobbyists began creating tools to explore the possibilities of Google's neural network.Dreamscope
is one of several Web apps that has popped up in recent days, and it looks like Instagram on powerful alkaloids. While Dreamscope doesn't give access to the full spectrum of Deep Dream's abilities, it does make the process quick and easy. Just upload an image, select one of the 19 provided filters, and you'll get your own A.I. art show within about 15 seconds. (The first wave of "user-friendly" Deep Dream tools took hours or even days to process an image.) Above is one of the world's most famous public domain images -- the 1970 meeting between Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley -- as run through Dreamscope's "demonic" filter. Captures the moment nicely, doesn't it?How Face Recognition Tech Will Change Everything
The imagery Deep Dream produces is unique in terms of how it's produced, but machine-generated art -- sometimes called digital art or generative art -- has actually been around for quite a while. Probably the most familiar example is fractal art, in which dedicated software turns algorithmic equations into still images and animations. Fractals are natural phenomena which occur both in mathematics and biology. In a fractal, recursive patterns repeat at different scales -- so that a tiny sliver of a fern leaf will look much the same as the larger fern leaf itself. These repeating geometric patterns can be plotted mathematically, in two or three dimensions, then converted into lines, shapes and colors. The resulting images are virtually infinite in variety and complexity, depending on how you tweak each iteration of a fractal.
The Painting Fool
Machine-generated art has been exhibited in galleries all over the world since at least the 1960s. But artists and historians have historically disagreed over whether such exhibits are truly created by computers, or whether computers are simply another tool used by the human artist. Another open question: Can you even term a machine-generated image or object as "Art"? British computer scientist Simon Colton has been exploring these questions with his A.I. project known asThe Painting Fool
. The A.I. system, adapted for exhibition in galleries, takes a digital picture of each visitor then selects from thousands of abstract templates and image filters. The Painting Fool makes its choices depending upon processes that govern the machine's "mood" -- for instance, scanning text from a newspaper. If its mood is dark enough, it might not paint at all. The Painting Fool also learns from its mistakes and Colton is continually adjusting the A.I.'s algorithms to meet his seven criteria for true creativity: skill, appreciation, imagination, learning, intentionality, reflection and invention. The program has recently branched out to start producing sculptures, animations and poetry.Did da Vinci Create a 3-D 'Mona Lisa'?
Computer History Museum
But there's still that sticky question about Art, with a capital A. Even if a machine does generate original images -- or objects or manuscripts -- do these creations truly constitute artistic expression? The software system known asAARON
, for instance, has been creating original artistic images since 1973. Developed by painter and computer scientist Harold Cohen, the program has gone through different stylistic periods in which it has created both highly abstract and highly representative images. AARON's drawings are created though a system of custom printing machines and have been exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London. But while Cohen describes AARON as an A.I., he has officially left the issue of Art as an open question. In an effort to resolve the issue, computer researcher Mark Riedl recently proposed a new variation on the Turing Test, designed to identify true artificial intelligence. HisLovelace 2.0
test would require that an A.I. produce a range of creative work -- paintings, poems, designs -- that expert observers would find indistinguishable from the work of a human artist. Riedl's contention: If a machine can create art that is indistinguishable from human art, then the A.I. has achieved human-level intelligence.How Real-Life A.I. Rivals 'Ex Machina'
Thin flesh-colored brushstrokes appear and disappear inside the frame, swirling around to create a new portrait with every turn.
Aptly titled “A Living Portrait,” this constantly morphing digital artwork from media design studio Universal Everything looks alive.
The UK-based studio, led by creative director Matt Pyke, was commissioned to create the piece for a new digital canvas called the Depict Frame. Pyke drew inspiration from his art school days and Rembrant’s rich, dark tones, the Universal Everything site explains.
Initially the team contemplated thicker, paint-like liquid that swirled around for ”A Living Portrait,” but settled on the thinner, sketchier strokes. Medium posted an image of that early production in their artist spotlight from last year.
The 47-inch by 28.5-inch wireless Depict Frame displays moving art in ultra-HD resolution and comes in black, white, and maple. It can also swivel between portrait and landscape modes, the company says.
Each frame includes the Universal Everything portrait plus a curated collection of digital art. Frame owners can opt for a monthly subscription, choosing what to display from hundreds of original 4K-resolution artworks.
See the painting in action here, but be forewarned that you might be disappointed when the mesmerizing video ends:
Just watching the video of “A Living Portrait” made me think the artwork might only be viewable in person at a museum or gallery, but the moving piece could be yours for $1,800.
The frames begin shipping this spring — right in time for nature to put on its own display.