Art News App – If you’ve been browsing social media this week, you’ve probably seen a surprising number of colorful, professionally edited selfies. No, the artist didn’t just cash a huge commission check. These photos are created using the artificial intelligence portrait app, Lensa, which went viral this week after the company launched its “magical avatar”.
With Lensa, users upload 10-20 images – and pay $7.99 – and the app uses a neural network known as Stable Diffusion to map the user’s faces and create dozens of images in different artistic styles, such as fantasy, science fiction or anime, in 20 minutes. But as the app has taken the internet by storm, it’s also reigniting debates about data ethics, representation and discrimination that have become more pervasive as AI and the art of AI become more widespread.
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In particular, artists have expressed concerns about the ethical underpinnings of the technology. The way AI apps like Lensa work is that designers and engineers use large sets of data to train models to recognize and learn certain patterns or styles. Once the model has learned this information, they can focus on a new image and replicate that image in any of the styles they were trained to use.
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In this case, Lensa’s app was notified of artwork created and uploaded by artists across the internet, and some artists say it not only cuts their work, producing 50 images for a fraction of the commission price, but it is possible. share their work, including their signature.
“You can learn from other artists and their artwork, but since I’m not allowed to take my favorite photo of the artist and use it as my own, we have to ask ourselves: Should- he would be allowed to use images there to train AI models to further mimic artists’ styles,” says Cansu Canca, practice lead at Northeastern’s Institute for Experiential AI.
Artists in online communities like DeviantArt, which creates the kind of art that Lensa draws inspiration from, tend to hold back. If someone posts a work of art that looks like the work of another artist, that person is often criticized and rejected. But it’s much harder to point fingers at AI.
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“What do you call responsibility when an algorithm has created it?” asks Jennifer Gradecki, associate professor of art and design at Northeastern.
Dakuo Wang, associate professor of art and design at Northeastern, explores human-centered AI in an effort to inspire engineers and algorithm designers to consider the impact of AI on the individual and society as a whole. He argues that the future of AI is collaboration, not competition.
“I absolutely believe that AI will change the way people think, work, design, but it shouldn’t be a competitor,” Wang says. “A supervisor or writer has a vision, a story, in their mind. They know what they want to write or paint. AI just gives them a better brush or painting tool to realize their vision and story in their mind. “
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Unfortunately, companies often focus on hype or investing in their own technology, Wang says, showing that “AI technology is as good as, or even better than” humans.
But Lensa raises ethical questions that go beyond the relationship between artists and AI. Many also raised issues of privacy and data collection.
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“They have your facial data forever,” says Gradecki. “They can do whatever they want with it, train any other algorithm. … It’s one thing if you train a facial recognition algorithm and it’s a photo application. It’s another thing if law enforcement is using it to try and find suspects.”
Images and templates used by Lensa are also stored on Amazon Cloud Computing Services, which comes with its own terms of service.
“It’s possible that when you put that in, Amazon uses that data for its analytics, and it’s part of the products they sell and sell,” says Derek Curry, assistant professor of technology and design at Northeastern.
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Some users, especially women, have also said that the app creates sexual images without prompting. Some users criticized Lensa for having trouble showing Asian faces, or for erasing their race all together.
Gradecki says these representational biases are the fault of the kinds of skills the AI has learned over the technology. Women are always more sexual in fantasy, he says. The example comes from learning what it was taught.
“There’s a lot of imagination in these styles,” says Gradecki. “Algorithms repeat biases. They are designed for that.”
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Techniques already exist to solve these problems, he says. Companies can spend a lot of effort scrubbing and cleaning the data fed to their algorithms, using categories such as gender and race as “control signals” to make the model more accurate. The real problem is that engineers and designers, intentionally or not, “don’t even think about it”.
“[We need to] make sure that we can prepare the next generation of engineers and designers to be better prepared and to think more about the value of people when they design this,” Wang said. Two ECU students have completed the week-long Adobe Creative Jam hackathon, in partnership with the New York Times, which challenged competitors from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to create an application for improve reading and news.
Alina Danilyuk and Desiree Chek, both students in ECU’s User Experience (UX) Design Certificate Program, placed fifth out of 350 teams for their prototype app, Newsfluent, which uses an algorithm to verify authentic sources of information and allows users to share reliable information. .
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“Newsfluent is designed for young people who receive information online, so they can take a URL from any online news source and put it into the app to get a fact-checking score and detailed information on the credibility of this source”, Desiree. told me via video chat.
Newsfluent uses an existing fact-checking framework that examines “income, value, authority, truth and purpose” to determine if a news story contains reliable information. Alina and Desiree decided to focus on young adults as their target audience after considering research that found three-quarters of young Canadians get their news online. Meanwhile, a separate poll found that 65% of young Canadians say they’ve seen the wrong thing at least once a week.
“A lot of people are on social media, and when you get a lot of your information, it can be hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. You have to be very aware of what you’re eating. “Alina tells me.
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Because Alina and Desiree were placed in an international competition, they had the opportunity to receive feedback from developers at Adobe as well as The New York Times.
“It was great to see them review our program and give us points for improvement,” says Desiree.
The program was extracurricular, which meant that the two aspiring developers had to balance their school work with the busy hours they put in to meet hackathon deadlines. They met remotely every morning to set goals and often worked with an always-on video conferencing app to stay in touch. But because the theme is one they can relate to, Desiree and Alina say they had no trouble dating.
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Desiree notes that the opportunity to work together was the main reason they wanted to take on the challenge. “The opportunity to work on a project together was really exciting and we really wanted to work on it – improve teamwork,” he says.
The design is a collaborative effort, the pair tell me. So communication is important. Any opportunity to improve your skills in this area – especially in stressful situations – should be welcomed. With that in mind, Desiree and Alina say they would be open to another hackathon, even if they are new to the creative industry.
Newsfluent uses an algorithm to verify news sources and allows users to share reliable information. (Photo courtesy of Desiree Chek and Alina Danilyuk)
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“It was a very happy experience,” says Alina. “I would wake up and the first thing I want to do is continue working at Newsfluent. It’s something we’re proud of.”
“I think it’s something really fun and good to help keep your creativity going,” says Desiree, adding that she’s particularly impressed with the work they’ve done at Newsfluent. “We didn’t really expect to win, but it was a great experience. We had a lot of fun and we’re happy and we’re happy with how it went.”
You can see the Newsfluent prototype