Manipulated Algorithm Produces Psychedelic Abstractions

Author: Jon Sufrin, CBC Arts

Last month, Google revealed that it had found a surprising new use for its image-recognition software. The company's software engineers are tweaking the algorithm using a method dubbed "Deep Dream," which has produced a kaleidoscopic new genre of computer-art characterized by dreamy pagodas, haunting animal faces and electric-acid colour splotches. Whether or not this actually counts as "art" is a topic of debate, but that hasn't stopped Deep Dream from dominating the internet since its source code was made public a few weeks ago.

On a basic level, Deep Dream works by instructing a computer network designed for image recognition to over-interpret what it sees. Visual material is entered as an input into Deep Dream, and the network picks out and enhances the features it thinks it recognizes, based on images stored in its memory bank. The enhanced image is fed back into the system, and the process is repeated until bizarre new objects, landscapes and creatures emerge. The results are crazy, in both good and bad ways.

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