Google’s latest AI toy may be its most clever: an automated drawing bot that analyzes what you’re doodling in real time to suggest a more polished piece of clip art to replace it. Called AutoDraw, the software is another of Google’s ongoing creative machine learning demonstrations that it releases as part of its AI Experiments series. It uses the underlying technology behind the company’s experimental image recognition software to identify potential objects and pairs that with a database of neat and simplistic hand-drawn images.
The company bills AutoDraw as a “drawing tool for the rest of us,” and by us it means aesthetically impaired individuals who couldn’t doodle themselves out of a paper bag. “AutoDraw pairs the magic of machine learning with drawings from talented artists to help you draw stuff fast,” says the narrator in Google’s AutoDraw teaser video. The actual tech under the hood comes from another Google AI experiment called Quick Draw, which uses machine learning to analyze human drawings and get better over time at guessing what they are.
Quick Draw was a neat distraction, but AutoDraw is an absolute blast with some very tangible benefits for non-artists looking to add art to everything from fliers and party invites to custom birthday cards. For instance, if you want to make some balloons and a cake, it takes just a few moments:
Of course, AutoDraw isn’t perfect. A lot of the times the program will suggest some truly bizarre replacements and it’s impossible to know really how the software arrived there. Write some English text, like the word “Verge,” and it will for some reason suggest toes or feet or yoga poses. But that does at the very least give you an opportunity to get really weird and experimental, like turning a taco into a boomerang:
Or turning a shooting star into a battle ax:
In other cases, AutoDraw feels truly novel and clever, like when it appears to understand doodling shorthand for turning a pair of triangles into a fish:
It’s a ton of fun to play with and it’s easily the first of these Google-made experiments I could see truly taking off with the general public. Google seems to know this, too, which is why it made the tool free and accessible through the mobile web, so you can access it on both your desktop and on a tablet or smartphone. Try it out for yourself. Just be warned, it can ensnare even the most casual of doodlers among us into long, procrastinatory art sessions.