Generative Portraits Made from Your Voice and Webcam Photos

Sergio Albiac's black-and-white portraits are also inspired by philosophy and literature.

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08 June 2016, 1:39pm


Image courtesy of the artist

Barcelona-based artist Sergio Albiac is adding some literary and philosophical meaning to the average selfie in his latest project I am Portraits. The project is based on his installation from the Internet Age Media Weekend that took place earlier this year where he took photos of participants while asking them to describe themselves. This was then converted, using a Web Speech API, into text. 

Using custom semantic analysis Albiac then changed or complimented the text with philosophical and literary passages, which was then fed through some custom code to create a generative collage portrait. Albiac calls the end result "personal essentialism." 

For the new project he's opening the portraits up for people to participate online. "It is a project open for internet audience participation," Albiac explains. "This is an experiment to convert data into meaningful portraits. From a webcam photo and your speech, I will analyze your words and transform them into literary / philosophical passages that will be the texture of your generative portrait."

For this project Albiac's combining the custom code and semantic anaylsis with machine learning networks he trained to copy his style. This is because he didn't want the portraits to mimic other artististic styles, like we've seen Google's Deep Dream neural networks do, but maintain his own individual aesthetic. 

"I've been starting to experiment with my own neural networks for my visual art," Albaic tells to The Creators Project. "But in contrast to the interesting results of inceptionism, I do not try to imitate styles, but imitate my own style! In this case, before I create the collage, I correct the original photo based on my manual corrections done with more than 1000s [of] photo portraits. It is a very basic neural network (not a sophisticated deep learning net). The results are sometimes not good, but still, I get consistent good results and I like the concept of an artist 'imitating' himself."


Image courtesy of the artist

Albiac has created a special platform for the project called beyApp ("beyond appearance")—a "virtual portrait studio." The platform takes your photo then you speak into your computer's microphone, describing yourself/your character/your job/ambitions/etc—Albiac's code then works its magic and tallies it with some quotes and you get a black and white, graphical portrait. My own one was formed using a line from a poem by English Romantic poet John Keats.

"The project is not a reaction against selfies," Albiac writes over email. "It is more of answering the question of what makes a portrait meaningful: I think it is going beyond appearance. And as a contemporary artist working with computer code, I have the exciting chance of using the implicit meaning contained in your personal digital data (or world's real time data streams) to transform it into an artistic vision of yourself."

The project is similar to Albiac's Stardust  generative portrait series where the artist combined crowdsourced images of people with pics sourced from the Hubble Space Telescope. But this time he's creating the images not from an external source, but from the very ways in which people think about and define themselves. 

"My vision is to create portraits as portals to human identity," says Albiac. "Portals that you can interact with, evolve with you, feed with data. Art as a service. Experimenting alternative ways of creating and distributing art. Beyapp is a brand new platform to host these experiments now and in the future."

If you'd like to get involved in the project you can head over to the beyapp platform here to request an invite code. And you can check out some portraits from the series so far, below.


Image courtesy of the artist


Image courtesy of the artist


Image courtesy of the artist


A portrait of the author. Image courtesy of the artist. 

You can learn more about the project here. And learn more about Sergio Albiac's work by visiting his website here.

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