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Microsoft Tech Artificial Intelligence

How a Microsoft machine learning AI created this entirely new Rembrandt


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

April 7, 2016 | 3 min read

Microsoft has trained its artificial intelligence software to replicate and produce original paintings based upon the works of Rembrandt van Rijn in the hope to refine its deep learning and facial recognition programmes.

In actual fact, the above image is an entirely original tribute to the master's works, created by a machine.

The battle between humans and AI has been reignited after Google reaped the benefits of the excessive man hours applied to its AlphaGo software in March, which saw the computer program defeat Go champion Lee Se-dol 4-1 repeatedly in the Chinese board game, embarrassing one of humanity’s finest players.

Now Microsoft is now flouting its AI abilities, having tasked it with studying classic paintings to produce a brand new Rembrandt painting.

ING, Microsoft, Delft University of Technology, The Mauritshuis and Museum Het Rembrandthuis all pitched in to birth the aptly named ‘The Next Rembrandt’ project.

The AI, capable of deep learning, was imprinted with 346 of Rembrandt’s known works in the hopes that it can create a unique 3D printed image in his style.

Across 18 months, Rembrandt’s works were scanned for multiple variables such as lighting, attire, style and many more.

It surmised that the Baroque artist most often painted men around the ages of 30-40. As the works fed it geometric data, it could replicate the works based upon the probabilities of each trait.

The study reads: "Once we generated the individual features, we had to assemble them into a fully formed face and bust according to Rembrandt's use of proportions.

“An algorithm measured the distances between the facial features in Rembrandt's paintings and calculated them based on percentages. Next, the features were transformed, rotated, and scaled, then accurately placed within the frame of the face. Finally, we rendered the light based on gathered data in order to cast authentic shadows on each feature."

Watch the mini documentary on the production of the new work below. Can a robotic mind created by humans, out paint one of our finest artists?

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