De Youngsters’ Photos Get the Look of Masterpieces

Imagine seeing the world in the style of your favorite work of art. Artistic Eye, a style transfer technology we created in collaboration with the de Young museum in San Francisco, is a step toward doing just that. We had a blast debuting Artistic Eye at the de Youngster’s Art Party (If you haven’t heard about de Youngsters, it’s a great program aimed at making the de Young and Legion of Honor museums more family friendly).

Guests, both kids and adults, stepped up to a custom photo booth installation and used props and their imaginations to compose self-portraits. Then they moved on to a larger-than-life touchscreen display to play with the look of their photos, transforming them into the styles of some of the most celebrated works in the museum’s permanent collection, including Wayne Thiebaud’s “Three Machines” and Chris Johanson’s “Forever is Both Ways for All Time.”

Artistic Eye is a lot of fun, but it’s also a way for patrons to interact more meaningfully with the works in the museum. Geoff Oxholm, an Adobe research engineer who worked on the project, explains, “We wanted visitors to be able to connect their lives to famous works of art, and to leave with a memento of the experience.”

Building an app that can emulate everything from the overall structure of a work of art down to the finest details was no small task. Geoff’s team built a neural style transfer algorithm as part of a deep learning project. We call these deep and helpful technologies Adobe Sensei. While there are other apps that can change the look of a photo, one thing that makes Artistic Eye exceptional is its ability to learn different scales of style. Large scale detail captures the overall structure of the style image (how the artist composes the work), and the small scale detail captures things like brush-stroke and texture.

Here’s a closer look at Artistic Eye ….

“Artistic Eye is unique in that it was inspired by real works of art,” explains Geoff. “Creating technology around original masterpieces is far more challenging than using simpler artistic styles that are well-suited to past methods in machine learning.

In the future, Geoff hopes to see the de Young use Artistic Eye in the museum’s mobile app, allowing museumgoers to take photos as they explore the exhibits and engage with the physical collections through stylization.

This is Adobe’s third year participating in the de Youngsters Art Party. Lisa Podos, former director of advancement and engagement for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, says “What’s especially exciting this year is the fact that the kids were testing a state-of-the art technology that museums such as the de Young can actually use to engage visitors. How better to inspire our 21st-century audience to interact with art than through style?”

For Lisa Temple, head of Community Innovation and Collaboration at Adobe, working with the de Young is a great example of how to build innovative collaborations within our community, while challenging our own team. And, among museum collaborations, the de Youngsters event has an added bonus — the kids. “We’re always looking for ways to get our research into the hands of non-traditional users, and children are great for this! They interact and explore in ways that grownups often don’t — without preconceived notions or expectations. They’re honest and outspoken, so there’s no better voice to inspire and motivate us.”

Lisa thinks all brands should be looking beyond traditional models, such as grant programs, finding more meaningful ways to partner with organizations like museums and educational institutions in their communities. She says, “Everyone wins with this kind of engagement.”

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