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Pikazo (pikazoapp.com)
179 points by peterjliu on Jan 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

There seems to be a bit of confusion here between art and beautiful compositions.

Art is not art because it looks nice or because it looks like something else that is widely accepted as "art".

I see art as something produced by an artist combining genius + technique.

Genius usually implies being original, but also stating what the piece of art represents in contrast to the existing ones (what boundaries it breaks, what pre-conceptions it revolts against, what is its purpose (even if it's purpose is to have no purpose) etc.).

Technique means work and expertise. Sometimes genius is so overwhelming that there is little technique needed. Sometimes technique is so skilled that it overwhelms genius.

The makers of this app are probably artists (there's certainly a lot of genius involved in devising a way to produce such compositions, and work). What you create with your app probably not art though, regardless of how amazingly beautiful it turns out to be.

That's not to say artists may not make use of such tool to make art, but they'll have to find ways to be original. The fact that a button can be clicked to produce a result automatically destroys much of the artistic value of the outcomes. But hey, it's beautiful :)

If a computer makes up a joke and it's funny does it count? I think it does.

Art is a lot like humor, it works for people because it just 'works'. That is what matters. Not the hard work, and 'genius' of the creator behind it, that's just vanity.

Would bohemian rhapsody not count as art if it was made up by a machine?

No, it wouldn't count. Because then we would have some thousands of bohemian rhapsodies. An art expression would perhaps be the whole bunch of works together (if you managed to give them a sense of being), and the artist would be whoever devised the program that created them. But individually, it would be have the same art value as those pictures sold in IKEA. Beautiful yes, but not art by themselves.

Edit: art is not art because "just works" or because it's likeable. Art goes way beyond what just works or the search for beauty. See the Viennese actionism for example: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-viennese-actionism.htm

> No, it wouldn't count. Because then we would have some thousands of bohemian rhapsodies.

The computer broke after completing the work: now does it count? I don't understand your idea of art, isn't there beauty in the result? You give different value if the same result has been reached by a computer, chaos or a human?

Do you have to know how the piece has been produced to decide if it's art or not?

Yes. A rock that's been pleasingly shaped by desert winds is not considered art. But if we'd later find out that it was actually a man-made artifact, it would become a candidate for this label.

So then the computer software that generated the joke would be considered the work of art instead of the jokes that were generated? After all, the software was man-made, even though the generated output was computer-made.

Hmm, I always find it weird that specifically the visual arts suffer from this. It's a lot easier to agree on music and dance (not liking it per se, but what constitutes an artist).

Yet, go to a modern art gallery and someone will try to convince you the potato he stuck on a coathanger is 'art'. usually with the same fluffy explanations you are offering here.

Answer depends on whether we're looking only at the end product, ignoring the process, but common convention is to qualify the end product name using words like artificial or drawn by an elephant to reduce confusion and to differentiate.

If a computer generates 100000000 unfunny jokes and one that seems funny, does that count?

It's not very different from how I learned to tell jokes. My brothers heard a lot of terrible jokes before I figured out timing and other aspects of humour.

If it makes you laugh, it's a good joke. What does the origin matter?

You're not making an argument that Pikazo generates real art. You're making an argument that humans don't make real art. This notion has absolutely no interesting implications for AI. It's like saying "language is relative, so any output of Google Translate is just as valid as what you think is valid".

:D only if its really really funny

In his book, “Playing to the Gallery,” the artist Grayson Perry attempts to answer this question. I'll summarize his definition because I found it interesting and challenging:

He begins by stating that it's now widely accepted that anything can be viewed as art. Seeing as that's an infinitely broad definition, he goes on to describe the following “scorecard” for what counts as art. A “yes” means it's more likely to be art:

* Is it in a gallery or an art context? * Is it a boring version of something else? Does it lack entertainment value? * Is it made by an artist? * Is it limited edition? * Is it admired by hipsters? * If you put it in a dumpster, would a passer-by wonder why an artwork had been thrown away? * Does it detain and suspend us in a state of frustration and ambivalence, making us pause and think rather than simply react? * If it's a photograph that's smaller than 2m and costs less than five-figures, then it scores negatively.

He says that the above tests aren't watertight, but if you put them together in a Venn diagram, the bit in the middle (the bit to which all the answers are yes) is pretty well guaranteed to be contemporary art.

I dislike the definition, but I wonder if it might be accurate. When I try to come up with a better definition, I wonder if the concept I'm trying to describe is something else—what art _should be_—not what art is.

I don't think there can really be a distinction between what art "should be" versus what art "is". You could maybe argue that a particular piece or style of art should be different, but does it really make sense to say that art should be something else?

More to the point, I think that definition is a little dissatisfying. By that metric, I have probably never created any art in my life -- because I'm not an artist with limited-edition work in a gallery. To me, that is unacceptable for a definition of art. Artistry is something more intrinsic to human nature than just being a thing made by an "artist" and put in an artistic context to be admired by hipsters and to confuse people.

All this blah blah blah to try to redefine art, and all you end up with is some weird elitist hipsterish definition that excludes tons of artists.

Most art has nothing to do with being a genius, it's lots of work, repetition, variation, trying new things, combining.

> lots of work, repetition, variation, trying new things, combining.

That's exactly genius and technique. It's not about being a genius in the sense of intelligent, it's about having the genius to move forward from the current state.

Always Sunny's latest episode actually looks at this, haha.

The decision of what constitutes art is up to the individual. What you have described is commonly accepted great art/ists, not art itself.

Well, yes you can see it that way. But then absolutely everything is art, which is not a very useful definition for it.

Per my comment, this would only be true if you feel that absolutely everything is art. That sounds kind of nice, actually (:

And how would you decide if a definition (of anything) qualifies as "useful"?

Concepts are useful because they help us discriminate - between that which falls under the umbrella of the concept and which doesn't. An attribute that applies to every possible thing equally is redundant, and can be ignored without loss of information.

I've always found the "what is art?" question to be pretty hilarious. It doesn't matter if the medium is a picture, a book, a movie, or a game. Great media has a thesis and does a great job of convincing the recipient that their thesis is true using Show-Not-Tell.

"Being original"? That's what art is for you?

Name an art current which hasn't revolted against what was previously done. Every generation of artists tried to grasp things which were left out by the previous ones. As I said, genious, but also technique.

What's art for you?

It's not because in the past (I mean 500 years ago) art was produced by doing something different from what existed that you should conclude that "art is about being original", even less that "art is revolt against what was previously done". These facts, if always true, are just consequences of another, much higher, goal of the artist.

It's because modern artists started thinking that _the goal_ of art was to be original that we came to this situation.

Avant-garde is likely a better term for what GP is describing.

It's consciousness cast onto a medium, like casting a double to a byte.

Producing art with a computer does not go against what has been previously done?

You can't even recognize "genius", which this is. It directly challenges the definition of "art", which is pretty wonderful.

Is this done with the deep learning research that was published here a couple of months ago?

for all who don't know about the submission months ago.



And now at http://deepart.io/ we have hi-resolution and the authors of the algorithm on-board. Thanks for mentioning us :)

Just some UI/UX observations:

The "Use style" wording didn't immediately register for me that the images were clickable. I wondered why the gallery images all had the same description when they were clearly different styles!

Perhaps "Use this style" would be more expressive?

When you do click through, it shows the same image (with face) to be used as the style image, leaving me wondering if a user provided style image should just be a texture (newsprint, vegetables etc.), or an already styled image.

The "Buy a painting" button is deceptive, since it's a canvas print, not a painting. I was going to suggest teaming up with instapainting, but I see they beat you to it [1]. I guess you could always go to the source [2].

The resulting modal dialog on clicking "Buy a painting" barely fits in the browser on a 15" retina MBP, even then, the cookie info bar clips the button, so I suspect you may be loosing sales from people who can't figure out how to get to the button, especially on smaller screens (you'd be surprised!).

Clicking through that dialog brings me to an ebay page, but not for the image I selected to buy. There are a range of other images shown, but it doesn't seem to be possible to choose one, never mind the one I wanted. I have no idea what I'm buying, or how to buy what I want.

Finally I can't "Buy", I can only bid, as it's an auction, not a "Buy it now".

Oh, and please tell Michael to change his name to Andy. :) [3]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10162121 [2] http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/oil-painting-on-demand.html [3] http://deepart.io/page/about/

Thank you very much! As these are recent changes which we haven't tested live, your comments are very useful and we are actually implementing them now.

You're welcome - I'm available for consultation! :D

You should add an explanation for the waiting time, queue thing. This was unexpected and also not really clear. First thought I could only get it by paying...

Good point, thanks! We actually had one, but we removed it in the current version (it seemed natural for us but it obviously is not) - we will bring it back.

We simply have limited resources for servers, but still want to provide the highest quality possible in the free version. That's why there is a queue, but we are working hard to make the implementation faster and more efficient :)


The success message (when there will be one - there should be one instead of only the submissions queue) should definitely include an explanation, what happens next and how I can influence it. Will I get an email when my pictures are ready? Can I schedule more pictures?

I think you will have more success showing the # of people in the queue and a "jump the queue" feature.

Is there a way to build a "I want it NOW, even if it isn't that great... (and get the great version later via email)".

The public/private thing could also use some explanation "Show this on the website" vs. "Only give the result to me".

"Delete" would probably better be named "remove" as you remove the submission from the queue, and don't really delete anything that was already created.

Also, "Submit a new image" could let me choose some style images... but I bet that's already on your backlog anyway.

Nice idea, nice tool!

Definitely it all requires more explanation as we take it for granted but for users it is not clear what is happening

Unfortunately "I want it now" is not possible for the moment as the computations are really heavy and there is a lot of people who want to use it. But we also have some ideas for that.

Now our focus is the quality, regardless the cost. We increased the resolution and we try to make things faster. Later we will figure out how to make it more sustainable.

I really appreciate your suggestions.

On the waiting time point. I was putting together a similar service to yours (though you got there first). We managed to get our processing time down to under 50s for a 300x300 image. How do you cope with such long times? Or, how long is the waiting time?

Would you mind going into detail on how higher res is achieved? Splitting the original image into smaller regions, and rendering each separately?

Given that we are discussing it in the comments of the app who just misappropriated the algorithm, I unfortunately have to refuse your request for the moment, sorry. We love open research and open source but there is always some risk involved.

There is 30 characters limit for the mail field :(.

Indeed, there is a bug in submission form. You can register with longer emails through the registration form. Thanks for reporting the error.

I was just thinking that. Seems it might be based on the description. Kinda interested how they'd do it in a speedy way on mobile devices. Hope they didn't just knock-off the open-source code though.

From the website: "This is incredibly computationally intensive, and even on a cloud of the fastest computers, it takes a few minutes to process each image."

I'm pretty sure they're using the open-source code that was published.

"Stiefvater [...] described it to me as 'black magic,' and doesn’t even fully understand how it works. He downloaded it from Github, where a computer programmer he’s never met posted it."


Yes. That was back in September. Before Pikazo or Deepart even existed.

Let's refrain from making nasty implications about each other, shall we? Thank you.

No nasty implications sounds fair to me. Good luck!

Ok good.

Would you also mind retracting your claim below that we have "misappropriated" your technology? Perhaps we're having a language problem - "misappropriate" is a crime in English. If you honestly believe a crime has been committed, I would strongly urge you to discuss it with us (somewhere other than this public forum). We've tried a few times now to reach out to your team, and have not heard back.

Thank you.


I am sorry, I didn't mean any legal accusation - it just feels a little odd that the description of the app sounds as if you invented the technology without ever referring to the original work.

Yeah - I think you're right - that's a fair complaint. In the original description I had a link to the paper - but somehow that got lost in the versioning. I'm traveling right now, give me a couple days to fix that.

the description sounds like they're running a server farm, not doing the processing on the phone.

Why do I have to download an app to use it then?

It lets them monazite it in a way which a web-app might not.

Because that's what users expect and it's much easier to create a usable user experience around photos, uploading, notification when it is ready etc.

Two more examples:


I've been slowly coming back to this app for weeks. It works well combining a photo with a clear focus, and a patterned one.

A few weeks ago, they dropped the resolution of the photos. After seeing a preview of what a smaller resolution one looks like, I'd be happy paying extra for a large-sized one.

That's great! What is your "template" image here? I tried with a few similar without good results.

Is it using this algorithm?


most likely. Thought about how long it'll take for someone to release it as an app - not sure how they will cover the server costs for rendering the images if it's not done on device.

$2.99/user will probably cover AWS bill for a while, if users don't keep hammering it

Created by the image scientist behind landmark visuals seen in Myst, The Matrix, 300, and Second Life...

I wonder who it is. The press-kit linked on the website just says "Developer: qarl".

Karl Stiefvater is a graphics programmer who's been involved in, among other things, Riven (Myst's sequel) and The Matrix. He's been playing with the neural algorithm of artistic style on his blog recently (e.g. [0]). In 2015 he also started a YouTube series, "The Joy of Programming"[1], although as far as I can tell only two episodes have been released.

[0]: http://www.qarl.com/qLab/?p=144

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRL9J6DoCgs

Seems easily googlable: http://www.qarl.com/menu/info/

So I guess I'm not alone wanting to do an app like this after seeing deepart.io. Kudos to Pikazo for getting it out there. I'm sure it will be a huge hit.

There's also https://dreamscopeapp.com/ which is on App Store for at least 3 months (may be more, I am not sure)

I wonder if this could be the beginning of many artists being replaced by AI.

I don't think it is possible to replace an artist. The definition of artist, that I could find, is recursive so that's the first problem with that.

Then the appreciation is subjective; to replace an artist you would need something like; 'I like Rembrandt but now I like this guy instead'. I used to like Jean Michel Jarre then Beethoven then Iron Maiden then Slayer then ... etc. I still like all of these and can get excited when hearing any of them. No one of them replaced the other.

So we might have MORE artists. Once we accept that computers can make art 'without' humans. I am fine with that, but this example is definitely not a very good example. To me it looks like fancy filters.

> The definition of artist, that I could find, is recursive so that's the first problem with that.


The artist is someone who makes art. The problem is to define what is art. Its when the artist (or others) says so.

something is art because the artist calls it art.

From my understanding it seems that the technology exists to replicate human art, not to create new styles on top of it. So I think in order to train the technology to do more styles of art it will require humans to make those new styles.

I think there's a useful metaphor in pop music: Mainstream music is almost fully formulaic. While not fully written by machine, it's not exactly a green-field endeavour to write a pop song. While we do tend to call these people writing and especially performing pop-songs "artists", this is more in the sense of "performer", and it's generally laughed at when a pop star refers to their art.

In the meantime, there are tons of underground movements and scenes, coming up with new sounds and styles, and the artists we generally accept as proper such (and not just performers), belong to these, feeding new styles into the mainstream.

Something similar will probably hold true for computer-made "art": Some very nice and enjoyable things will come out of it (and tons and tons of trivial and dull things as well), but the truly interesting stuff is made by humans further up the funnel.

Depends on your definition of 'artist'. This doesn't create any original work, it just remixes a photo into a style. When the subject matter is more than a source image and the output more than a digital visualisation through an algorithm, then the answer is 'no'.

Strictly speaking: no, by definition. However AI could drive some of them out of market. Example: people are buying this kind of human made art https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=dreaming+painting&tbm=... Why shouldn't they be buying these neural network made pictures? https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=deep+dreaming+neural+n...

I would say in that case that the art is the AI itself (or its code), because it is what efforts and research have been put into. And thus the artist would still be human: (s)/he is the one who created the AI.

I don't think so, but I think it's definitely getting us closer to the first artist who really isn't - creates art deep AI way and paints a copy of it.

If art for you can be replaced by this kind of mimicry, it begs the question of whether you really need or care about art in the first place.

Art is more than just creating visually appealing images, it's also about capturing intent. Until the point AI has its own intent, the images that are shared reflect the intent of the humans that interact with it. Can think of it as an advanced type of paintbrush.

The artists who can stay in business are the ones who can picture completely new images in their minds eye and draw them. The ones that just transform reality a little are probably not going to do so well.

For people downwoting this comment, please explain why. This is a very pertinent question.

This is scarier than I thought. For me this passed the Turing test for art.

well, photos do not become "incredible artwork" or "art" just because means of expression change.

there are photos that are considered to be art, without applying such effects. and there are photos that are not considered to be an artwork.

latter will more likely become more tasteless and ugly with those filters applied, while former don't need such filters in order to be considered the art.

Of course a bad photo doesn't become art by applying a filter. But artists have always used tools to create art. Now they have another powerful tool that lets them do amazing things that wouldn't have been possible a year ago.

Question for someone who has this app. Can this convert a photo to anime-like or cartoon-like rendering a-la A Scanner Darkly?

I don't know Scanner Darkly and I don't have the app. But I have done a lot of my own images using the same algorithm as that used in the app. And, yes, it can definitely render photos is anime or cartoon like styles.

Anyone know the name of the song used in the video?

From the bottom of the page: "Music performed and written by Adult Fur."



Not at all. Did you even look at the examples?

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