arts

An app that turns your photos into Renaissance paintings became so popular that it crashed

Published 24th July 2019
An app that turns your photos into Renaissance paintings became so popular that it crashed
Written by Ryan Prior, CNN
If you've ever wanted to see what you might have looked like through the eyes of Rembrandt or Raphael, here's your chance.
A week after interest in the Russian photo app FaceApp spiked, populating our news feeds with older versions of our friends, a new face-transforming app is turning heads.
The app, called AI Portraits, uses artificial intelligence to change a photograph of anyone to resemble an old painting, with a special focus on 15th-century portraiture.
It may not have broken the Internet, but it's outgrowing its domain: The website was down for hours Wednesday.
"Due to the overwhelming popularity of the site, we are currently down for maintenance," a notice on the site said.
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In case you've ever wanted to see actor Jason Momoa through the eyes of a classical painter, AI Portrait can do that for you. Credit: Getty Images/AI Portrait AR

Turn your face into art

AI Portraits uses data from tens of thousands of paintings, ranging from the Renaissance to the contemporary era.
Developed by researchers from the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, AI Portraits uses dueling neural networks to produce a generator that "looks at examples and tries to mimic them," according to the MIT Technology Review.
In this case, it compares photos to 45,000 paintings in the program from Old Masters like Titian and Rembrandt.
The technology also creates a "discriminator," which judges whether a given example is fake.
This type of algorithm can be used for a range of purposes, such as detecting deepfakes, fake videos designed to look like real recordings from actual people.
The program does have a basic blind spot, the MIT Technology Review says: Because smiling was rare in Renaissance portraits, the AI has a hard time showing your glee if you put in a smiling selfie.
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Privacy concerns

AI Portraits works differently from FaceApp, which drew skepticism for its privacy policy and for having been developed in Russia.
AI's privacy policy says, "Your image will be sent to an IBM server in the US, processed by IBM for the sole purpose of generating a renaissance style portrait based on the pixel information from your uploaded image, and then immediately be deleted."
All tech companies deal with deep concerns over how they handle user data, and the eagle eye of scrutiny turned to FaceApp in its moment of fame.
It had a privacy agreement that appeared to allow it to do virtually anything it wanted with the photos that users uploaded.
But in a statement to TechCrunch, the company said that "most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date." FaceApp also noted that 99% of its users didn't log in to the app, so their photos couldn't be linked to their personal data, and that their data is not transferred to Russia.
FaceApp and AI Portraits aren't the only photo transformation apps to attract rapid attention.
Last year, Google released a feature in its Arts & Culture app that used a matching algorithm to analyze people's faces and find doppelgangers from art history.