Man wins competition with AI-generated artwork – and some people aren't happy

Plus: Use machine learning to understand your cat ... possibly

In brief A man won an art competition with an AI-generated image crafted, and some people aren't best pleased about it.

The image, titled Théâtre D'opéra Spatial, looks like an impressive painting of an opera scene with performers on stage, and an abstract audience in the background with a huge moon-like window of some sort. It was created by Jason Allen, who went through hundreds of iterations of written descriptions fed into text-to-image generator Midjourey before the software emitted the picture he wanted.

He won first prize, and $300, after he submitted a printed version of the image to the Colorado State Fair's fine art competition. His achievement, however, has raised eyebrows and divided opinions.

"I knew this would be controversial," Allen said in the Midjourney Discord server on Tuesday, according to Vice. "How interesting is it to see how all these people on Twitter who are against AI generated art are the first ones to throw the human under the bus by discrediting the human element! Does this seem hypocritical to you guys?"

Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell, who covered the brouhaha here, raised an interesting point: "People once saw photography as cheating, too – just pushing a button – and now we realize the best creations rely on skilled composition, judgment, and tone," he tweeted.

"Will we one day regard AI art in the same way?"

Footy, footy, footy

DeepMind has trained virtual agents to play football – the soccer kind – using reinforcement learning to control their motor and team work skills.

Football is a fine game to test software's planning skills in a physical domain as it requires bots to learn how to move and coordinate their computer body parts alongside others to achieve a goal. These capabilities will prove useful in the future for real robots and will be a necessary part of artificial general intelligence.

"Football is a great domain to explore this very general problem," DeepMind researchers and co-authors of a paper published in Science Robotics this week told The Register. "It requires planning at the level of skills such as tackling, dribbling or passing, but also longer-term concerns such as clearing the ball or positioning.

"Humans can do this without actively thinking at the level of high frequency motor control or individual muscle movements. We don't know how planning is best organized at such different scales, and achieving this with AI is an active open problem for research."

At first, the humanoids move their limbs in a virtual environment randomly and gradually learn to run, tackle, and score using imitation and reinforcement learning over time.

They were pitted against each other in teams of two. You can see a demonstration in the video below.

Youtube Video

People are using AI to generate NSFW images

It was only a matter of time before someone went and built a viral text-to-image tool to generate pornographic images.

Stable Diffusion is taking the AI world by storm. The software – including the source code, model and its weights – has been released publicly, allowing anyone with some level of coding skills to tailor their own system to a specific use case. One developer has built and released Porn Pen to the world, with which users can choose a series of tags, like "babe" or "chubby," to generate a NSFW image.

"I think it's somewhat inevitable that this would come to exist when [OpenAI's] DALL-E did," Os Keyes, a PhD candidate at Seattle University, told TechCrunch. "But it's still depressing how both the options and defaults replicate a very heteronormative and male gaze."

It's unclear how this will affect the sex industry, and many are concerned text-to-image tools could be driven to create deepfakes of someone or pushed to produce illegal content. These systems have sometimes struggled to visualize human anatomy correctly.

People have noticed these ML models adding nipples on random parts of the body or sometimes an extra arm or something is poking out somewhere. All of this is rather creepy.

Can AI decode your cat's meows?

There's a mobile app that claims it can translate the meaning of a cat's meows into plain English using machine-learning algorithms. 

Aptly named MeowTalk, the app analyses recordings of cat noises to predict their mood and interprets what they might be trying to say. It tells owners if their pet felines are happy, resting, or hunting, and may translate this into phrases such as "let me rest" or "hey, I'm so happy to see you," for example.

"We're trying to understand what cats are saying and give them a voice" Javier Sanchez, a founder of MeowTalk, told the New York Times. "We want to use this to help people build better and stronger relationships with their cats," he added. Code using machine learning algorithms to decode and study animal communication, however, isn't always reliable.

MeowTalk doesn't interpret the intent of purring very well, and sometimes the text translation of cat noises are very odd. When a reporter picked up her cat and she meowed, the app apparently thought she told her owner: "Hey baby, let's go somewhere private!"

Stavros Ntalampiras, a computer scientist at the University of Milan, who was called to help the MeowTalk founders, admitted that "a lot of translations are kind of creatively presented to the user," and said "it's not pure science at this stage." ®

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