• Elliott

These Pictures Don't Exist

I'd like to share a discovery with you today; an internet rabbit-hole of sorts that I've been diving into recently. Let me introduce you to the world of ArtBreeder.

In their own words, ArtBreeder is "a new type of creative tool that empowers users creativity by making it easier to collaborate and explore." The premise of ArtBreeder is simple in concept, but no doubt incredibly intelligent under the hood. I'm not going to pretend to know how the AI is able to generate the images that are output, but I do understand the logic of how it works as a user. And it is like so:

You, as the user, are able to select or upload several "parent" images, as well as additional "gene" images. These will all be used by the AI and thrown into an artistic melting pot of sorts, and output into a series of new "child" images. Simply keep selecting the most interesting image to discover totally new images. Infinitely new random "children" are made from each image. ArtBreeder turns the simple act of curiosity into creativity.

There are a number of different categories to choose from at the outset, including sci-fi landscapes, photorealistic faces, anime faces, faux album covers and so on, but my favourite category is the "general" one, as it leaves so much room for varied results.

For example, if you were to select an image of a dog and a bubble as the parent images, you'd likely end up with something like the below.

Where it gets really interesting though, is with the "genes". You can choose from a wide variety of objects, creatures and materials, and use sliders to determine how much you'd like the "genes" to impact the resulting image(s). So you could pick a crab as part of the genetics of the image, drag the slider all the way up, and suddenly your creations will start to display spiky, crab-like elements. Sometimes it can take a bit of tinkering to get a result that looks anything other than monstrous in nature, but with some patience and curiosity you can generate some really cool images.

I myself found it really fun to create somewhat abstract architectural structures and natural landscapes of sorts. Below is a sample of some of my recent creations:

If this sounds even remotely interesting to you, I'd highly recommend giving it a try. It's completely free to sign up, and although there are paid subscription models available, you can see pretty much everything that the site has to offer on the free version. It's easy to spend an hour or so just clicking away and tinkering, and looking at what wacky creations other users have come up with.

Personally, I am fascinated with the strange "uncanny" nature of many of the resulting images that ArtBreeder is able to throw at you. Various almost-recognisable elements are visible in the images, and even though what you're looking at doesn't exist and often doesn't make sense, your brain can almost understand it and can fill in the blanks to interpret it somehow. I actually stumbled upon ArtBreeder after coming across this image, which you may have seen before. According to Reddit user mcasbas, the image is "designed to give the viewer the simulated experience of having a stroke (particularly in the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex, where visual perception occurs.) Everything looks hauntingly familiar but you just can't quite recognize anything." I find this pseudo-familiar, uncanny nature of AI-generated images to be incredible, and I've had a lot of fun with my art breeding thus far.

It's an excellent tool in its own right, but it's also a great resource for a multitude of purposes. Looking for artistic inspiration for your next project? Perhaps you need some landscape images to use in a D&D campaign, or you're looking for a mugshot for a character design you're working on? Maybe you just want to blend images of animals together to create horrifying new crossbreeds. Whatever your needs are, it's definitely worth exploring the site and letting your creativity flow.


Can't get enough of this topic? Well, I've got some good news for you. I've put together a short list of related articles, videos and other content from around the web that is related to what I've written about. Feel free to click away and take your brain on an adventure.

Introduction to Artbreeder video | ArtBreeder - YouTube

About - Artbreeder.com

The first piece of AI-generated art goes to auction - Christies.com

About AIArtists - AiArtists.org

Why Are Things Creepy? | VSauce - YouTube

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Elliott Beverley 2020.