back to article Forget DeepFakes. This robo-Rembrandt with AI for brains is not bad at knocking off paintings

AI-powered robo-painters are getting somewhat better at ripping off masterpieces, judging by the following fresh research. A team of academics at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Princeton University in America, and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, have crafted a new system dubbed …

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It'll make a mint 'cos all people want is knock offs of well known styles

You don't need a farm of AWS EC2s and a 5TB backend DB of data to rip stuff off, just give someone a decent DSLR and a copy of Photoshop, then give them 18 months. You only have to look through any modern photo gallery like 500px.com to see how many people will happily "rip off" the most common photo styles, saturated and overprocessed images of landscapes. Soft focused nudes that wouldn't look out of place in Amateur Photographer circa 1985!

You want your AI to impress me? Show me something truly original that ticks all the right mental boxes for a pukka image, based on the backend data you have on famous artists and their work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It'll make a mint 'cos all people want is knock offs of well known styles

There are painting reproduction shops in China. One person sets up a number of canvases and then goes round adding the same colour detail to each in turn. These are skilled artists who cannot make a living selling their own originals.

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Re: It'll make a mint 'cos all people want is knock offs of well known styles

These are skilled artists who cannot make a living selling their own originals.

You know why.

'Cause in general the Art Market is run by the same aholes that run the Music Industry - they value the top couple of percent of artists (or artistes) and an extremely narrow genre band well over the majority of the market.

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Re: It'll make a mint 'cos all people want is knock offs of well known styles

"'Cause in general the Art Market is run by the same aholes that run"

It's actually far worse than that. Music has it's own issues, but fine art is essentially a tax scam.

Certain works are "valued" at large amounts. Only a few of these actually need to change hands, as long as the market is well controlled. hence the preference for dead artists, no fresh material coming out :)

Once a piece has a certain value, it can then be donated to a museum or gallery and the donation used to offset taxable income. Since the gallery doesn't actually pay the value, and the market is fixed, then the donation "value" may not be at all representative of the real world value.

So if I said "This urinal is worth 500k, because it is ART, and now I donate it to the V+A. I'd like to not pay any tax this year thanks" it's clearly fraud. But put a couple more people in the process, then it's all good.

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Re: It'll make a mint 'cos all people want is knock offs of well known styles

Not sure whether true, but I hear you can also launder big by transacting modern crud, I mean, art, via auction houses. Large sums of money suddenly change hands but there is no obligation for the house to record where the money comes from.

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I have zero problems

with a system that can reproduce paintings in 3D. Paintings are three dimensional objects and a photograph rarely does them justice. But how about some examples of how it deals with well known paintings rather than some (presumably) carefully selected input.

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Re: I have zero problems

Paintings are three dimensional objects and a photograph rarely does them justice.

Depends on the style. Old masters worked with very thin paint layers, and their works are pretty much 2-dimensional unless viewed with a magnifying glass. Slapping on lots of paint became fashionable only in the 19th century.

Even then, a well-made photographic copy, especial if printed on canvas and framed, is very convincing from some distance.

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Headmaster

robo-Rembrant [sic]

Presumably to stop the real Rembrandt suing their ass.

You don't mess with the old masters. That Caravaggio, 'e'll 'ave yer for tuppence.

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Re: robo-Rembrant [sic]

And you would not believe what Hieronymus Bosch will do to your ass. Getting medieval is only the start...

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Re: I have zero problems

Microsoft's 'The Next Rembrandt' is worth a look. It used Rembrandt's portfolio and 3D printing to produce something new, that to these untrained eyes, looks like a Rembrandt:

https://www.nextrembrandt.com

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: robo-Rembrant [sic]

Blah, stupid late-night headline typo on my part. It's fixed - don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot anything wrong.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

first they came for the paintings

what's the end of the line, building robots and passing them for humans?! Wait, didn't I see this in a movie, or two? Art imitating AI imitating art...

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Terminator

Re: first they came for the paintings

It ends with AI art criticbots who write digitally scathing reviews of JMWTurnerBot's latest offering.

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Anonymous Coward

Do you like our painting?

Is it artificial?

Of course it is.

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dv

Re: Do you like our painting?

Must be expensive.

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So they've made a more complicated scanner

Wrap the obligatory "AI" around it, and attach a 3D printer and voilà ! you have a grant and a project.

But there is no AI in there. The color analysis can be done in Photoshop and, unless I've missed that news, I don't think Adobe is crowing about how it crammed AI into Photoshop.

So it's a program that inputs an image, does some pre-programmed fiddling and outputs said image. Don't try impressing me with the mixing of inks, that's something that dumb inkjets do a hundred times a day.

I'm not saying this is a useless project, don't get me wrong, but there's even less AI in this one than usual.

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Re: So they've made a more complicated scanner

If you read the article a bit more carefully you will notice that they did not use close up scans but ordinary digital photographs. The AI bit was to re-create the missing data, which is important.

Masks worn by actors have a blood red layer under the flesh coloured layer so the mask looks real under different lighting conditions. Painters use a similar trick: light can enter through the light areas and come back out through the darker areas to fool the brain into perceiving motion in the parts of the picture you are not looking at. I know that sounds impossible, but take a look at what can be achieved even without different coloured layers.

The only way to tell if the AI is doing a good job is to see the original and the fake side by side. Digital photos on a monitor are not useful - unless the artist designed for display on a montor.

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I was excited at first.

When I read the title I thought they were using the 3D printer to reproduce each individual brush stroke. Now that would be something.

The reality is ...meh.

And BTW, I already own a photo printer that uses 8 ink colors, so what is the point to this?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I was excited at first.

And BTW, I already own a photo printer that uses 8 ink colors, so what is the point to this?

Exactly my first thought too. Outside of the 3D printer usage and the color adjustments, this doesn't seem like it's that earth-shattering.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: The reality is ...meh.

Well, thing is, it's a) a research project b) it's one attempt at it. It's not a final project.

These things improve. I think people tend to forget that technology slowly comes together, building upon layers of work over time.

Bit like the ink from this printer AI.

C.

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Or to drive down the price of originals

"“We’re building the technology to reverse this trend, and to create inexpensive and accurate reproductions that can be enjoyed by all.”"

A truly spot on reproduction should drive down the price of the original too, shouldn't it?

Oh, I suppose not ... it's kind of like "Well, *this* ascorbic acid comes from rose hips!"

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As others have noted above, getting the brush strokes right will be the important thing in duplicating art styles; and not just modern art -- my recollection from my art history classes in college is that "Rembrandt" (or whomever) used his paints texturally in, e.g., The Man in the Golden Helmet. Getting the AI to recognize when a color boundary in a photograph is due to pigmentation or shadow depth will, IMO, be a big step.

To find out where the technology really is at any given point in time, give an AI a really big 3D printer and a photo of a Jackson Pollack painting and see what it can do.

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Alert

This is not AI

Obviously they call it "AI" because of fashion.

Neural networks (in computer terms) also still have nothing much in common with biological neural networks.

I'm not much impressed with this idea whatever they call it.

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LDS
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2D inkjet printers... and advanced fine art reproduction

... only basic and office models use four inks. Entry level prosumer photo printers usually use at least eight, and pro models 10-12 inks.

What they did was also already made, albeit with more sophisticated imaging systems:

https://www.designboom.com/art/oce-3d-printer-creates-identical-reproductions-of-fine-art-paintings-09-30-2013/

https://www.3dprinter.net/canon-and-fujifilm-3d-print-van-gogh-and-rembrandt

https://hexus.net/tech/news/peripherals/86429-canon-demonstrates-printing-realistic-artistic-textures/

It looks the novelty of their approach was using AI instead of more sophisticated 3D imaging, but I think from a simple 2D photo it could miss details. Correcting colors for light conditions is something photographers learn early, from simple white balance to more complex profiles - even if today sometimes it is complicated by non-continuous spectrum lights.

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Unhappy

So basically a printer?

It is probably better than my Pixma 8500 which has 8 colours, but then, it is 14 years old.

But then, there hasn't actually been that much improvement in printing technology since then. If I go to Jessops today and ask them to sell me a replacement for it, they would sell me a Pixma 100S, which also has 8 colours, at the same resolution and roughly the same speed. The only improvement seems to be in connectivity options.

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Let me know when they have a real AI pseudo-painter.

As i'd like the lounge doing.

I know in my mind what i'd like it to look like, but somehow, with my choice of colours and maybe (lack of) skilled technique, it never turns out quite(anything?) like i'd like it to be.

Let the AI machine tune into my brainwaves and get on with it.

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3D printers with large colour palettes would make a better job of forgery, by reproducing the surface topography of oil paintings. Scanning such fine 3D surface detail to any degree of accuracy would be a challenge, however.

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But, can it reproduce the The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies ???

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