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Tech by VICE

Science Goes Too Far, Creates AI That Turns You Into an Anime Character

Thanks to researchers at video game company NCSoft, machine learning can turn you into anime.

by Matthew Gault
Aug 1 2019, 5:27pm

Image: Kim et. al./NCSoft

We live in an age of miracles and horrors. Artificial intelligence now has the power to create fake videos of people doing and saying things they’d never say or do, simulate the ravages of age, and transform you into a classical work of art.

Now, thanks to researchers at video game company NCSoft, AI can convincingly transform you into an anime character.

The program uses a popular machine learning architecture called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). GANs “learn” from a vast amount of training inputs, such as images of human and anime faces, to create new samples.

The AI-anime-convertor is the brainchild of Junho Kim, Minjae Kim, Hyeonwoo Kang, and Kwanghee Lee, researchers working for the video game company NCSoft, the publishers of Guild Wars 2. The NCSoft team released the code on github and published its research online.

“I was inspired by a paper called ‘class activation mapping’ (CAM),” Kim said in an email. CAM looks at an image and separates it into layers, using discrete points of interest to classify the most important elements. For example, if a CAM-trained neural network is looking at an image of a cat and a dog, it will see that fur is a trait too similar to use for classification, so it’ll use the animal’s eyes or ears.

According to the paper describing the work, the NCSoft team embedded these “attention maps” into their model, allowing the GAN to focus on important regions in the images and ignore less important ones. Add to that a fancy normalization algorithm the team dubbed Adaptive Layer-Instance Normalization (AdaLIN), and you’ve got a reliable way to create a convincing anime portrait of yourself.

Ai turns dogs into cats
Image: Kim et. al./NCSoft

Kim and his team didn’t stop with changing people into anime characters. The same technology also transformed horses into zebras, normal pictures into VanGogh-style paintings, and cats into dogs. The animal transformations, in particular, are disturbing because they’re so good.

If you’ve got a computer powerful enough to run the software (you don’t) you too can transform your dog into a cat, or yourself into a perfect anime avatar.