A new pair of eyes

Researchers are working very hard on the ability of computers to mimic the human senses—in their own way, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear. In this article we highlight two examples of algorithms that seem to be beating us at our own game.

Your eyes can be deceiving. Sometimes -even for humans- it is hard to distinguish a muffin from a Chiwawa. Most of us can recognize an object after seeing it once or twice. But the algorithms that power computer vision and voice recognition need thousands of examples to become familiar with each new image or word.

Researchers at Google DeepMind now have a way around this. They made a few clever tweaks to a deep-learning algorithm that allows it to recognize objects in images and other things from a single example—something known as “one-shot learning.”

The team demonstrated the trick on a large database of tagged images, as well as on handwriting and language.

And then there is Smile Vector. A Twitter bot that can make any celebrity smile. It scrapes the web for pictures of faces, and then it morphs their expressions using a deep-learning-powered neural network. Its results aren’t perfect, but they’re created completely automatically, and it’s just a small hint of what’s to come as artificial intelligence opens a new world of image, audio, and video fakery. Imagine a version of Photoshop that can edit an image as easily as you can edit a Word document — will we ever trust our own eyes again?


“I definitely think that this will be a quantum step forward,” Tom White, the creator of Smile Vector, tells The Verge. “Not only in our ability to manipulate images but really their prevalence in our society.” White says he created his bot in order to be “provocative,” and to show people what’s happening with AI in this space.

“I don’t think many people outside the machine learning community knew this was even possible,” says White, a lecturer in creative coding at Victoria University School of design. “You can imagine an Instagram-like filter that just says ‘more smile’ or ‘less smile,’ and suddenly that’s in everyone’s pocket and everyone can use it.”

Category: algorithms, Research, senses

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