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This Is How a Computer Sees Movies

Watch everything from 'The Matrix' to 'Annie Hall' through the eyes of a machine.

Installation Photo of Computers Watching Movies, University of Illinois MFA Thesis Exhibition, 2013

Computers Watching Movies is a new art project by Benjamin Grosser that attempts demonstrate what a computational system "sees" when it views some of humanity's most beloved films. Though the images might look like abstract or even net art, they're actually temporal sketches, created in tandem with audio from the original film. Similiar to trying to imagine the world as someone color blind or with impaired sight, viewers are challenged to consider how a machine takes in their field of vision (as compared to a person), and, as Grosser puts it "what that difference reveals about our culturally-developed ways of looking."


Why do we watch what we watch when we watch it? Grosser asks of viewers. Will a system without our sense of narrative or historical patterns of vision watch the same things?

Created using software written by the artist that uses computer vision algorithms and artificial intelligence routines to give the system some degree of autonomy, the computer recruited for the project actually gets to choose what it wants to watch. Some of the movies the computer will enjoy include American Beauty, Inception, Taxi Driver, The Matrix, Annie Hall, and (ironically) 2001: A Space Odyssey. While the computers (at this time) can't tell us which films were their favorites, or if they think Kevin Spacey is as awesome as we do, check out the illustrations they came up with below:

Computers Watching Movies (Exhibition Cut) from Benjamin Grosser.

Computers Watching Movies (American Beauty) from Benjamin Grosser.

Computers Watching Movies (The Matrix) from Benjamin Grosser.

Computers Watching Movies (Annie Hall) from Benjamin Grosser.

Still Frame from Computers Watching Movies (Inception)

Still Frame from Computers Watching Movies (Taxi Driver)

Click here to see more from the artist.


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