These Portraits Are Not Photographs; They Are Entirely AI Generated

What do you think to these portraits? Well lit, high quality, quite professional? What about if we told you they’re not photographs at all, that these people do not exist, and that the images are generated entirely by artificial intelligence?

NVIDIA, the company that released a surprisingly accurate Content-Aware Fill earlier this year, has now unleashed their next development. Their new paper details a generative adversarial network (GAN) which allows for easy customizing of the style of realistic faces.

As The Verge reports, GAN technology has existed for only four years. Although revolutionary at the time, below is what the results looked like. Needless to say, the attempts to form human faces looked more like surveillance video captures.

In the short time since then, the technology has improved so significantly that it can produce results that are indistinguishable from actual photographs. Researchers at NVIDIA are now able to sample source faces and replicate them onto destination faces, essentially taking samples of existing faces in order to blend and create images that have copied features but which look like new people altogether.

The researchers spent a week training the AI using GPUs. Here are some examples of the scarily realistic images the technology has created. It’s not just portraits; it’s been generating interior real estate photos, cars, and even cats.

What this means for the future of stock photography remains to be seen.

All images: Goodfellow et al; Karras, Laine, Aila / Nvidia.

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28 Comments

user-156929's picture

I don't understand the practical applications.

user-216690's picture

There is similar software that can manufacture a person's voice. Just wait until political candidates are shown saying and doing things that they never did.

user-156929's picture

A lot of them are already claiming that's already happening! ;-)

user-216690's picture

Well if it is not happening already we are very close to it being a reality.

Spy Black's picture

We're just slowly sinking further into The Matrix...

Musing Eye's picture

I'm reminded of the novel "Little Heroes" by Norman Spinrad, where the celebrities are manufactured virtual personalities. Actually, a lot of that book is starting to seem more like reality. Pretty nice call from 1987.

user-156929's picture

I've not read that title but it's amazing to me how books can sometimes seem to predict the future. Given the number of books written, I suppose it's inevitable.

William Howell's picture

Boy, that is something else, there’s got to be a way to tell the artificial from the real, right?

user-216690's picture

For now.

Actually the idea of GAN is all about that. One Net tries to differ Synthetic from Real and the other tries to cheat it and create such a good Synthetic images that telling the difference will be hard.

William Howell's picture

I wonder, do you think it will be impossible to tell the difference, will we be fooled?
Now I’m not a big conspiracy kind a person, just wondering.

If you ask if there is an algorithm that generates has generated an image people think is real while it is synthetic, then we are already there.

The nets are trying to generate a space of photos.
Namely a space where for each point in it the net can output a real image.
So currently we can't have a net which for each point in that space it produces a perfect image which humans think is real while being synthetic.

The Engineering problem is how to have more and more volume of that space to be valid.

One tell tale I could see from my phone's screen was the cats' eyes were often differing in an unnaturally way. One had an eye significantly bigger than the other, and several had pupils that were dilated very differently for each eye.

Mike Stern's picture

All of those cars look the same to me and nothing new came up to my eyes about any model.
Cats in the other hand... very successful. I have never seen these cats before and I checked the whole archive, they really don’t exist.
Good job nvidia.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Very clever stuff, amazing what technology can do.
shametheaudiotrackisntbettergenerated I'M BUZZING FROM MONOTONY

user-165452's picture

I knew this was just another headline grabbing article. It’s just compositing. We do that for fun for the Christmas period, get 3 people’s faces and merge them. It’s nice but they are real people, contrary to what your headline says.

Jordan McChesney's picture

Any time I read an article like this the Terminator theme instinctively plays in my head.

The cats are firmly in the uncanny valley area for me, but this kind of technology is always interesting to see.

imagecolorado's picture

How does one obtain a model release from one of these AI generated portraits?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Even if you sign a model release, what is the right to alter your face in such manner by someone else?

Musing Eye's picture

As with all such, this may vary by jurisdiction, but the MR I use has a phrase "agrees the images are considered to be of a fictional person." My understanding is that the phrase is there so if the image is used to promote a product/service, it's clear that there is not implication that the model is personally endorsing that product/service. But in this context, it feels like "well, what's one more fictional person?"

I can finally create my own ideal girlfriend

Kirk Darling's picture

If a million computers generate "portraits" for an infinite amount of time, will they generate the same portraits I'm going to take of my clients?

Maybe so, but fortunately I'll beat them to it.

Iain Lea's picture

Truly believe this is possible and will only get better, faster and cheaper going forwards.

One area the camera companies and photographers/stock companies should be looking at is digital fingerprinting all "real" images (key mgmt and blockchain tech would be a good starting point. Nikon D5 can do some kind of fingerprinting today (read about it while I was deciding whether to get a D5 or D850).

Jeremy Lusk's picture

"What this means for the future of stock photography remains to be seen."

Reads like:

"What the asteroid's impact on the the future of my property taxes remains to be seen."

Jorge Cevallos's picture

Very soon, electronic commerce won´t need a real model for their clothes, jewelry and stuff they sell. They will just need to generate random faces and poses to get a desired look.

Kirk Darling's picture

And then we'll be back to the mid 60s when I was considering being a fashion artist prior to photography.

Paulo Macedo's picture

We will get to a time period, where people will buy our outmost crappy photos just to have something real hanging on the wall. Reality will be a luxury item.