Ethereal, vivid, and sparklingly imaginative, I can only dream this is what Frodo Baggins would see if he dropped acid on his way to Mordor. People seem to love it though. The computer made creations went at a charity auction in San Francisco for around $8000 a pop. Not bad for some computer code. So how does Google’s Inceptionism do it? The same way all artists create: Through a regurgitated mix of past experiences. The fundamental technology that powers Inceptionism was invented as part of Google’s machine learning research. Google wanted to recognize and understand what’s actually in images. To know that a photo of a curved phallic yellow object, is in fact, a photo of a banana.
You can understand why Google would want this power. A human could look at a photo and know with unwavering certainty, “that is a pineapple wearing sunglasses.” But a computer? Enter the artificially intelligent brain powered by digital neurons. The artificial neural network (ANN) is “trained” by being fed millions upon millions of reference images. Like a baby’s brain absorbing everything it sees. The ANN has “learned” what both pineapples and sunglasses look like. When it “sees” the image to be identified, it locates the edges and corners of objects, and then classifies them into shapes and colours. When this is cross referenced against its massive database, it outputs a solid guess of what’s in the picture: A pineapple wearing sunglasses. Cool, huh? A computer with the cognitive ability of a pre-schooler!