From Harry Potter clones to 8-bit video games. How creative is generative AI?

From Harry Potter clones to 8-bit video games.  How creative is generative AI?

One day we will look back and the possibility of creating a digital work from scratch, using a graphic tablet or a stylus, will seem like something old and outdated. The same shot of a photo, the old-fashioned way, has already passed as the pinnacle of offering the best content chosen by a judging panel, specifically that of a section of the Sony World Photography Awards, which in April chose an image created by artificial intelligence as winner of the Creative section. No one had noticed, until Boris Eldagsen, the author, revealed the trick. A point of no return, which lays the foundations for a profound reflection on how much art generated by AI should be worth compared to that which arises exclusively from the human mind. A second-order problem when the most famous algorithms of the moment are used, perhaps unintentionally, to deceive, to show reality as it is not, to confuse and create astonishment. Which is kind of the goal of art itself, the old-fashioned way.

At the end of March, "Balenciaga Pope" went around the social networks, a photo of Pope Francis in a very stylish white down jacket, in Balenciaga style. A photo generated with one of the best known software in the field, Midjourney, and posted on the Reddit forum. If you look closely, the image can easily be identified as a man-made creation: the Pope's ear is crooked, his glasses blend into the shadows on his face, and his hand, clutching a cup of coffee, it is deformed. But in the world of the fleeting, being deceived is very simple. Even the American Chrissy Teigen, model and television personality, had admitted that she was taken aback: «I thought the Pope's duvet was real and I didn't think twice about sharing it. I won't survive the future of this technology."

Something similar, due to the involvement of a famous person, happened to Donald Trump. Here the "fake" is much more evident but the potential of the AI, or rather of whoever manipulated it, to seize the news opportunities, is really high. Also in March, the former US president had written on Truth Social that within a few days he would be arrested in Manhattan, urging his supporters to "protest". The prediction was unsuccessful, but a flood of images generated by artificial intelligence fulfilled the prophecy of him, going viral as a joke, although misinterpreted by many as real photos. Also behind the fake Trump fleeing the police is Midjourney, which is proven to be among the simplest and most creative tools for making successful "memes."

Turning to unvarnished fiction, in April Midjourney allowed Ben Mornin, a musician and illustrator who is very active on Instagram, to retouch the main protagonists of the Harry Potter saga to transform them into babies. The result is exhilarating but, going into technical results, also tremendously realistic. Merit of version 5 of the program, which according to some users has come to produce "disturbing" images, in the sense of almost indistinguishable from reality. And yet Harry Potter is at the center of the reinterpretation performed by the AI ​​in the transposition of Rowling's character in various nationalities: from Mexico to Brazil, passing through Japan, India and even Italy. Spreading the creations is AI Dreams on Instagram.

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The opportunities of the digital generation through AI also open up nostalgic reinterpretations in the field of video games. And so it is possible to ask Bing Image Creator, the platform built on Dall-E technology, to churn out so-called "digital art" in 8-bit style, starting from today's videogame titles. Just type in the search field something like “Halo videogame in 8 bit style” to get four themed files. The same experiment can be done with other well-known franchises, from Call of Duty to Fortnite. Tools to put AI at the service of man, not to replace his creativity but to use it in an alternative, almost unlimited way.

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