If you need any further proof of how AI is encroaching on our lives, here's the story of an AI generated image that fooled the experts and won a photography competition.
The picture in question looks like a drone shot taken at sunrise as two surfers head out into the sea. The lighting is beautiful, perhaps too beautiful, and that's because nothing in the image exists in the real world.
The competition was run by electronics company Digidirect, and the win was announced via its Instagram account. The image, which was generated by a Sydney based company called Absolutely AI, was created as a test to showcase just how far AI has come.
"After learning that we had won, we came clean to the company and we returned the cash prize. So why did we do it? We did it to prove that we’re at a turning point with artificially intelligent technology by passing the ultimate test. Could an AI generated image not only slip by unnoticed (not one person who has seen the image has sensed anything out of the ordinary) but actually be awarded the top prize by a photography expert? The answer is resoundingly yes."
It was entered under the name of Jan van Eycke, a 15th century painter who created the most stolen artwork of all time, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. In an interview with News.com.au, Absolutely AI's Jamie Sissons, himself a photographer, stated, "As a creator, it is terrifying. I look back at the work that I have created. And if I’m being honest, it all looks so basic. I’ve won photography awards. I’ve won awards in filmmaking and things like that. And my stuff doesn’t look as good as what a machine can generate.”
The competition win comes hot on the heels of Réponses Photo using AI to generate a front cover to its magazine that is indistinguishable from reality.
This front cover is entirely AI generated. Image: Réponses Photo.
Where will AI go from here?
The AI systems in question are not perfect, as we've seen in the past. However, although some of these images are taking hundreds of cycles to get the AI image generation tweaked just right, it still means that the human creator is not at the whim of the weather, or the lighting, or facing the expense of travelling.
On the one hand it's an affront to a photographer's hard graft to achieve perfection in the field, but on the other there is an insatiable demand for images on a day-to-day basis. As someone who often needs an image to illustrate an article on RedShark, even the largest stock library often doesn't contain precisely what is required. There's a very strong case for the use of AI generated images for this very use. The big question is, as the AI gets better, faster, and more accurate with less image generations needed for realistic results, what will this do to the field of photography?
We are certainly at a tipping point, where we will begin to see what the real consequences are. Not just in terms of the quality of imagery produced, or the effects on the photographic industry, but also in a legal sense. AI requires vast amounts of information to learn from, and with photographers and artists launching legal challenges to AI creators, there may be other avenues of income yet untapped.