In a recent photography competition, DigiDirect crowned a winning shot that featured a drone-style capture of surfers at sunrise. However, all is not what it seems.
DigiDirect looked at entries for its summer photo theme; one particular image stood out. The aerial photo shows surfers hitting the waves as the sun comes in, almost making it appear like the ocean is half on fire. The photo is stunning, so it’s perhaps no surprise it won the category.
The issue is, the photo isn’t real. The image was made using AI, created by the Australian company Absolutely AI using MidJourney. So why did they enter the shot in a photography competition? To prove a point of course. The goal was to show just how far artificial intelligence has come and put it to the ultimate test to see if the AI-generated image could go unnoticed in the competition.
Not only did the photo go unnoticed as AI-generated, but it also went on to be awarded the top prize by a photography expert. It’s important to note that after learning they had won the competition, the team behind Absolutely AI confessed that the image was not authentic and returned the cash prize.
However, this proves we have reached the point where AI can genuinely pass as original work. The photo was cleverly entered into the competition using the name Jan van Eycke, the name of a 15th-century painter known for creating the Ghent Altarpiece, the most stolen artwork of all time.
The surfers in the image never actually existed, nor did the beach or that stretch of ocean. Instead, the photo is made up of an infinite amount of pixels taken from photos that have been uploaded online over the years. The AI system scanned through all this data and took little pieces to create the winning shot.
This is an example of a compelling AI-generated image that most people would easily pass as real. However, it’s interesting that even photography experts with a trained eye didn’t spot the small details that may have set alarm bells ringing.
While it’s impressive what AI can accomplish, it also raises concerns. AI-generated content has to scan data to produce results and artists are concerned that their own work is being used without permission to train these systems.
Some are already trying to combat these worries, such as ArtStation, where users can now opt out of having their artwork used in AI research. Still, AI is evolving and it’s showing no signs of slowing down, so we will likely see new regulations being implemented and tools to detect when AI is being used.
We are already seeing how these AI images can cause a stir with people creating fake video game leaks. An important aspect of the broader use of artificial intelligence will stem from how we as humans choose to use it.