Early last week, a couple of amazing images appeared in my inbox, they were photos of me, more or less. One was of me as a child – the child was recognizable but not Correct. I had been badly faked and it was…weird. He also raised many questions about the trust and the future of art and photography.
The email was from a Harvard student, Alfred Wahlforss, and he had an AI photography app in development, based on the open source code from Stable Diffusion. You can create your own weird childhood photos in the BeFake app for yourself, or fakes of famous people.
AI photo apps are a new trend that is emerging… fast. To this day, some of the biggest uses for AI have been for art, and we’ve got a guide on how to use DALL-E if you need tips. But photo apps are on the rise.
You’ll need to familiarize yourself with this type of AI, as Wahlforss confidently says that “99% of all images online will be AI-generated in five years.” Let that sink in; almost the photos you’ll see online in less than a decade will be fake. “It just gives you more flexibility, more creativity, and better results. And it’s cheaper, of course,” says the developer.
In Wahlforss’s view, the use of AI photos will allow the company to create images at a lower cost, for example, an online store could use AI to render sofas, desks and more at a fraction of the cost of hiring a photo studio. You can generate corporate or team photos with an established look and pose, without the need to corral everyone and waste time.
The use of AI will also usher in a new era of creativity, Wahlforss believes. “Ultimately,” he says, “I think it will give more impetus to human creativity, which is really exciting. I think the next Scorsese, the next master director, is not going to be somebody with a $200 million budget, but It’ll just be a person with a laptop, building intricate stories.”
The unreal elephant in the virtual room is how these realistic AI-generated images can be misused. The images created in BeFake that were sent to me are amazing and even sold me, for a moment, and I was in it. AI art is already proving controversial, whether it’s removing artists from the creative process or undermining copyrights.
For Wahlforss, the problem will be solved with more AI, developed to scan the web and identify when there are AI images, so that we are all aware that we are seeing false realities.
“I think in the short term, we have the ability to create AI models that recognize whether this is AI-generated or not,” the developer explains. “In the long run, I hope it will be impossible to tell what’s real and what’s not, but we as humans get more sophisticated over time to figure out ‘is this fake or not?'”
He adds: “I think that as we see more of this false content, we can understand if we should trust the sources or we have our own deductive system that is getting better and better.”
Ultimately, Wahlforss sees AI builders like BeFake as new tools for creativity, to add to a workflow and not remove talented people from the process. In our chat, he references the rise of Photoshop (remember, digital art was once devalued) and how, over time, it became just another tool in an artist’s arsenal.
Wahlforss explains: “[AI] it will harness human creativity. Therefore, you will need to have someone who can curate these images. And that’s the hardest part, you know, anyone could be a photographer today. But there’s a reason why we have people who are professionals who know how to set up the composition and what should be in the image etc. AI makes them 100 times more productive.”
The future and direction of AI for Wahlforss is the creation of photo-real images. Personally, I found this feeling strange while looking at myself in the fake reality of a childhood that wasn’t my own, and even Wahlforss admits that when he saw himself in fake situations it seemed “a weird feeling.” Right now, we can spot iffy images as the technology is in its infancy, but the future may be quite different.
The BeFake app has been developed by a team of three, Wahlforss together with Florian Juengermann and Axel Backlund, in two weeks. You can find BeFake in the app store (opens in a new tab)and try it for yourself.