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This website uses AI to turn your selfies into haunted classical portraits

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It won’t steal your data, but it might steal your soul

A selection of portraits produced by the AI Portrait Ars model.

Bored of using AI to age yourself into a desiccated husk? Why not use it to turn your selfies into harrowing but artistic portraits instead? Head over to aiportraits.com, home of a fun little widget built by researchers at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, and upload a photo to try out an artistic transformation for yourself.

The site uses an algorithm trained on 45,000 classical portraits to render your face in faux oil, watercolor, or ink. There’s a huge number of styles included in this database, covering artists from Rembrandt to Titian to van Gogh, with each input producing a unique portrait.

The algorithm doesn’t just copy the lines of your facial features, but it uses them as a base to generate an entirely new portrait.

As the researchers point out, unlike earlier AI methods that created similar AI portraits, the algorithm here is not merely “painting over” your face in a new style. Instead, it uses what’s known as a generative adversarial network (GAN) to generate new features from scratch.

Certain elements within any selfie may prompt the algorithm to use a specific style. In the images below, for example, researchers say the algorithm “decides upon a Renaissance style, highlighting the elegance of the aquiline nose, the smoothness of the forehead.” If you try a few different selfies, you’ll certainly get different results.

An example of AIportraits.com’s handiwork.

Before you get worried about the privacy implications (as some have warned with face-aging app FaceApp), this does all seem above board. Your photos are sent to the creators’ servers in order to produce the portrait, but the researchers promise they won’t use your data for any other purpose, and any images you send are “immediately” deleted after use.

But know this: once the AI paints your portrait, your youthful features will be frozen forever, while your digital rendering ages day by day in your downloads folder. Yea, it will become a foul ledger of your life, a record of every sin and vice you commit. Its very existence will wrack your conscience and corrupt all pleasure and joy you had once hoped for.

But that’s fairly standard for this sort of privacy policy and nothing at all to worry about.