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Innovation

AI behind virtual Van Gogh

Jason Green, CTO of Florida-based Medical Development International (MDI), said he has applied artificial intelligence to produce fine art. 'Using highly sophisticated programming, Green has programmed his computer with the ability to produce original, three-dimensional paintings rivaling present-day masters.' It's hard to know if it's art, but it sure is high-tech: the images are generated with an extremely high resolution of 7,500 by 5,000 pixels. But is the story true?
Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

Jason Green, CTO of Florida-based Medical Development International (MDI), has applied artificial intelligence to produce fine art. 'Using highly sophisticated programming, Green has programmed his computer with the ability to produce original, three-dimensional paintings rivaling present-day masters.' It's hard to know if it's art, but it sure is high-tech: the images are generated with an extremely high resolution of 7,500 by 5,000 pixels. But is the story true?

Virtual Van Gogh's Polyester Candy

You can see above one of the 'paintings' done by Green's 'Virtual Van Gogh." This one is called 'Polyester Candy' and is one of seven 'paintings' assembled by PCMag.com in this gallery (Credit: MDI, via PCMag.com).

Here are some details picked from the MDI press release.

Most computers store individual instructions as code with each instruction given a unique number; the simplest computers perform a handful of different instructions, while the more complex computers have several hundred to choose from. Green took programming capability one-step further by producing thousands of images using a set color scheme and style from multiple images simultaneously created on multiple machines. The best of these images are then rendered at extremely high resolutions. Green's "Virtual Van Gogh" takes High-Definition to an entirely different level. While the best High-Definition television (HDTV) currently available produces an image at 1980 x 1080 pixels, Green's program render's the painting's resolution to 7500 x 5000 taking more than 156 hours.

Of course, it's a press release. Still it raises quite a number of questions. What exactly means this sentence about the instruction set of computers? What kind of computers were used? How many systems were used to produce an image in almost 7 days?

The MDI website doesn't answer these questions -- and for good reason: it's an empty shell. In "'Virtual van Gogh' AI Program Paints Fine Art," Bryan Gardiner of PC Magazine doesn't really provide more technical details. But apparently, he had access to some of Green's pictures.

In "Don't Gogh There: Computers Wrestling With Artistic Angst?," Jason Working of Gearlog provides some comments about the artistic value of Green's images. "The resultant "art" is easy on the eyes--though decidedly abstract. A good title for the two "paintings" I saw might be "Journey to the Center of a Psychedelic Jello Mold." And he adds: "Nice to see computers exploring their artistic side. They're always doing what everybody else wants them to. But one word of warning to programmers of this kind of artistic intelligence. Maybe go with the Virtual Matisse or Virtual Dr. Seuss code instead of the Virtual Van Gogh. Nobody wants to walk in on a computer trying to slice off one of its speakers with a shaving razor because of an existential funk."

Still, I'm somewhat puzzled. Why a company would issue a press release while having only a single page on the Web? Maybe it's because of the specificity of MDI business. In a 2003 article, the Jacksonville Business Journal wrote that "MDI provided health care services for over 25 percent of U.S. federal prison inmates, private correctional companies and county governments" and that "the U.S. Justice Department's Federal Bureau of Prisons [was] the company's biggest client.

Let's look at the conclusion of the latest MDI press release -- written in pure PR lingo: "MDI is a leading business providing service innovations in health care and management technology to medical providers nationwide. Green and his IT colleagues at MDI have applied similar artificial intelligence programming throughout the company, empowering MDI's employees, customers and participating healthcare providers as never before."

So is MDI a health care provider for everybody or just for inmates? And why using AI to produce high resolution images? What does this bring to their business? Please drop me a note if you have an answer.

Sources: Medical Development International (MDI) press release, May 31, 2007; and various websites

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