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ThisPersonDoesNotExist has spawned a host of amazing copycat sites

Who can predict what’s going to evolve into a popular online meme? One day it might be a humorous celebrity reaction at an awards ceremony; the next it’s a cutting-edge Nvidia generative A.I. that’s capable of dreaming up original images out of nowhere. The second of these options sums up what happened recently when a new website titled popped up online. Using a pair of adversarial neural networks, it can generate highly convincing human faces which — you guessed it! — don’t actually exist.

Inspired by that website, a number of other generative adversarial network, or GAN, sites have now emerged, too, using the same StyleGAN machine learning tool to generate everything from slightly creepy cats to imaginary Airbnb listings to computer-created anime love interests. The GAN works by pitting neural networks against each other to generate new images, and then tries to spot which one is real and which is fake. Over time, the “generator” part of the GAN gets more adept at creating fakes.

“I was interested in ThisPersonDoesNotExist because I could not understand how such a thing could possibly work,” Christopher Schmidt, creator of ThisAirBNBDoesNotExist, told Digital Trends. “I figured that surely the model must be working from some template to make its images. Finding out that it was not — that it was truly able to take any random set of inputs, and convert it to a realistic-seeming representation of a face — was a huge surprise to me. I will completely admit I still don’t understand how it works, but I do understand that it works, and it’s an interesting space to be in.”

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The technology behind all of these websites is the same, as is the approximate layout of the sites, which allow users to hit “refresh” as many times as they wish, and provides a 100-percent new image every time. However, as noted, the images created span a wide range of genres — and all come with their own challenges.

“I picked anime out of a mix of intrinsic amusement factor, availability of high-quality, data, and genuine difficulty for machine learning,” Gwern Branwen, creator of ThisWaifuDoesNotExist, told us. “Anime is not something you see in many published papers, and is something everyone can appreciate: bad results are funny, while good results are even funnier.”

If you’re interested in machine learning, the results of these myriad websites show just how impressive and versatile Nvidia’s GAN is. If you’re not, and just want to be entertained, then the oftentimes surreal results generated by imaginary cats, fake rental properties, and anime heartthrobs that no actual artist has created are nonetheless sure to hit the sweet spot.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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