Computer-generated art: The whimsy and wonder of DALL-E

Hi, everyone.

The coolest toy I’ve tried lately isn’t a video game — it’s OpenAI’s DALL-E. Type in a one-line description and DALL-E will create a set of 6 images at a time. Specifying different styles (“as ukiyo-e”, “as a children’s book illustration”, “by JMW Turner”) will produce strikingly different results.

My experience is that photorealistic images tend to dip into the uncanny valley. The image generator really shines when asked to create art, “paintings”, and illustrations, the more whimsical the better. Here are a few examples:

This is one of my favourites, “Elephant doing accounting”. DALL-E was clever enough to create these in highly whimsical styles:

And a variant – “Elephant doing accounting, ukiyo-e”:

I was a little surprised when DALL-E opted to do this in a photorealistic style, “Lost cockatoo reading a map to get home”. At first glance the results are impressive, complete with shadows, although closer inspection reveals the details (eyes, crests) aren’t always right:

Spelling out the style produced this – “A cockatoo with luggage going on an overseas holiday, children’s book illustration”. I love that unprompted, it almost always gave the cockatoo a passport:

The really cool thing is when I asked for “Penguins at the airport going on holiday”, DALL-E generated all 6 images in this style – I suppose it “understood” that this is what you’d find in a children’s book:

“A penguin bing measured for a suit” (DALL-E understood what I meant despite the mis-spelling):

I have noticed that DALL-E struggles with lengthy, multi-barrelled descriptions. This was the result of “Stained glass window depicting a king parrot checking into a hotel”. The parrot came out extremely well, but what happened to the hotel?

And asking for animals of different species in the same image rarely works. Usually DALL-E creates multiple animals of the same species — for instance, asking for a hippo and three piglets once gave me 4 hippos instead. When asked to create “echidna, wombat, and cockatoo having a tea party”, it failed and gave me monstrous chimaeras, and once, a koala instead.

While not perfect, DALL-E is both entertaining and impressive. It’s also free – I registered and waited slightly over two weeks for approval. Why not check it out?

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