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Adobe tries its hand at turning photos into paintings with AI-powered Artistic Eye

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Adobe's latest experiment isn't the first program to use AI to turn photos into stylized paintings, but the company says Artistic Eye operates on a larger scale.

Adobe’s latest experiment in artificial intelligence puts the style of museum-famous artists in the hands of a webcam — and a few kids. Today, the imaging software giant shared a peek at Artistic Eye, an experimental AI-powered style-transfer technology.

Rather than put the new tech into the hands of the typical Adobe mobile app user or even Photoshop users, Adobe introduced Artistic Eye during a kids’ party at the de Young Museum in California earlier this year. The fundraiser, for the de Youngsters group that aims to make the museum more family friendly, featured a photo booth where families could take selfies and then use the style-transfer technology to turn themselves into the style of one of the works on display at de Young.

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While a number of apps like Prisma use AI-powered software to turn photographs into stylized paintings, Adobe says its style transfer is a bit different because of the sense of scale. “(O)ne thing that makes Artistic Eye exceptional is its ability to learn different scales of style,” the blog post reads. “Large-scale detail captures the overall structure of the style image (how the artist composes the work), and the small-scale detail captures things like brush-stroke and texture.”

The result, Adobe says, is a more advanced style transfer. “Artistic Eye is unique in that it was inspired by real works of art,” said Geoff Oxholm, an Adobe Research engineer. “Creating technology around original masterpieces is far more challenging than using simpler artistic styles that are well-suited to past methods in machine learning.”

The neural network is part of Sensei, Adobe’s system for artificially intelligent services. While the photo booth was Adobe’s way of testing the tech, Oxholm says he hopes the museum’s app will eventually incorporate the technology so visitors can continue the interaction with their own smartphones.

According to Adobe, the kids’ party served as a challenging way to test Artistic Eye. “We’re always looking for ways to get our research into the hands of non-traditional users, and children are great for this,” said Lisa Temple, Adobe’s head of community innovation and collaboration.

“They interact and explore in ways that grownups often don’t — without preconceived notions or expectations. They’re honest and outspoken, so there’s no better voice to inspire and motivate us.”

Sharing the work-in-progress comes on the tail end of several small-scale updates for Adobe over the last few weeks. Both Lightroom and Camera RAW were updated today to include a number of new cameras and lenses, including the Fujifilm GFS 50X, and even adding the lens profile for a number of Moment iPhone lenses. Two weeks ago, Adobe Portfolio and Behance were also upgraded with responsive photo grids, a new option for displaying a large number of related images.