It’s the same AI technique behind deepfakes, but also a $432,500 artwork.

The news: The tool lets users upload their photos, then view a classical-style faux watercolor, oil, or ink portrait based on the photo a few seconds later. Each one is unique. You can give it a go here.

How it was made: The tool’s creators at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab used generative adversarial network (GAN) models, a popular AI technique. It involves getting two neural networks to duel each other to produce an acceptable outcome: a generator, which looks at examples and tries to mimic them, and a discriminator, which judges if they are real by comparing them with the same training examples. In this case, they used 45,000 portrait images to train the program, including paintings by Titian, van Gogh, and Rembrandt.

No smiling, please: None of the portraits it creates include smiles, because it was uncommon for such overt facial expressions to be painted in the era the training examples cover. 

Is it safe? You might worry about the privacy implications of uploading your photo, especially after the recent furor over FaceApp. However, the researchers have promised the pictures are immediately deleted after processing by their servers, and they won’t be used for any other purpose. 

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