These Artworks Were Made by Algorithms
Non-photorealistis rendering of a photograph by Michel Comte. Image: CDV/IJCAI

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These Artworks Were Made by Algorithms

An exhibition coinciding with an AI conference shows the creative side of artificial intelligence.
July 29, 2015, 3:40pm

Think artificial intelligence and you probably envisage clear-cut tests of mental acumen: solving equations, processing scientific data, winning at Chess. But intelligence—in the very human way we understand it—is about more than ticking boxes. It requires a little bit of creativity.

One of the theme's at this year's International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), currently being held at Buenos Aires, focuses on the relationship between AI and art. Researchers are exploring how AI can contribute to the arts, and also how the arts might contribute to the development of AI.

Alongside the conference program, the Borges Cultural Centre is holding an exhibition to reflect AI's potential role in the arts. Some of the works that will be on show give a taste of the many different ways AI can be used to create art of its own.

Artist Jon McCormack describes his creation "Niche Constructions" as an "automated software drawing program that uses principles of ecosystem dynamics and biological evolution to create an infinite number of line drawings."

The lines in the drawing spawn in different directions according to varying criteria, but "die" when they collide with another line, until they become "extinct" and the drawing is complete.

"The Painting Fool," developed by AI researcher Simon Colton, is described on its website as "a computer program that aspires to be an artist." This image from its series "Pencils, Pastels and Paint" aims to simulate traditional (and rather human) artist materials. The program used digital photos of flower arrangements as a starting point.

"I used my evolutionary software to evolve the placement of the flowers in the individual circles," the Painting Foolexplains, adding, "I am being taught how to construct scenes using constraint solving methods and to rely less on digital images."

This image by Fernando da Graça and Penousal Machado at the University of Coimbra's Computational Design and Visualization Lab in Portugal is part of their project "Evolving Assemblages." It assembles 3D digital objects on a virtual canvas, based on a source image.

Also taking an evolutionary approach, this image is made by an algorithm inspired by ant colonies.

The creators from CDV explain that the algorithm, dubbed Photogrowth, "simulates the behaviour of species of artificial ants using their trails to produce a rendering of an original input image." You can see it at work responding to an image of a nude below.

The exhibition and conference also feature artificial intelligence involved in disciplines including dance and music—one paper presented at the conference explains how computer programs can generate jazz chords.

Of course, all of the AI's works have humans to credit in some way or another; there's not exactly an artistic robot uprising just yet.

Nevertheless, at least the Painting Fool insists it will be taken seriously as an artist in its own right one day, proclaiming on its site that "I will be able to paint from my imagination soon…"