Google's New 'AutoDraw' Website Fixes Your Shitty Drawings, But at What Cost?

The cost is that you can't draw genitals, dammit.

by Beckett Mufson
Apr 13 2017, 2:11pm

It's impossible to draw a penis, boobs, a vagina, or even a butt with the latest machine learning tool from Google Creative Labs, so here's a unicorn.

AutoDraw uses similar technology to the puppyslug-generating Deep Dream neural network to act as a spellcheck for sketches. "Drawing on your phone or computer can be slow and difficult—so we created AutoDraw, a new web-based tool that pairs machine learning with drawings created by talented artists to help you draw," writes Google Creative Lab creative technologist Dan Motzenbecker. On both desktop and mobile, the neural network tries to guess what your pitiful scribbles are like a visual search engine, suggesting several options with a wide margin of error by professional artists from seven different design studios.

That margin of error allows AutoDraw to spit out wacky ideas when you try to draw any sort of nude anything. A simple rendition of breasts yields suggestions of toes, noses, glasses, a rat, and several different hockey pucks. The computer thinks a quick imitation of Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du Monde is either a dove, a lighthouse, or someone doing yoga. In a strange twist, drawing a penis ended with the image of a flamingo holding a baseball bat.

Since the site is aimed at Google's audience—a.k.a., literally everyone—it makes sense for the library to be kid-friendly. It's advertised utility is limited to designing party invitations, but let's not forget that every neural network experiment is, in some capacity, designed to teach computers how to see and think. It doesn't necessarily have to be AutoDraw, but at some point someone has to teach artificial intelligence about the birds and the bees, and this basic experiment is a reminder of that fact. If we can teach them about the world's greatest tragedies, then we can teach them about sex.

Make your own AutoDraw illustrations, NSFW or otherwise, and tweet them to us here. The full list of artists who contributed drawings to the project includes HAWRAF, Erin Butner, Julia Melograna, Pei Liew, Simone Noronha, Tori Hinn, and Selman Design.


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Google Creative Lab
Dan Motzenbecker