Just Like People, Google’s Robots Can See Things That Aren’t There If They Look Hard Enough


Stare in the clouds hard enough and you’ll eventually make out shapes that only you can see. It’s not that uncommon to recognize silhouettes of houses, animals, and whatever images preoccupy your mind. Turns out, robots can do the same thing. So much so, in fact, that Google engineers even coined a word for it: inceptionism.

Basically, Google engineers trained an artificial neural network to recognize specific types of objects to the point where it can take a new input and label it correctly. All fine, right? Then, they had the software alter the input image to amplify the exact object they’re looking for, enhancing it to make the object stand out. Still good, of course. But, then, they decided to make it amplify objects that aren’t actually in the picture, leading to… well… interesting results.


As it turns out, making a neural network look for animals and enhance them in a photo of nothing but sky and clouds will cause the networks to, essentially, make up animals in the photo. Seriously. Then, they made it look and enhance again in the output photo from the first time around, leading to the network seeing even more. Yeah, you catch the drift. The networks, basically, over-interpret the images, causing them to see things that aren’t there.


To push the concept of inceptionism further, the team decided to send their networks in an endless feedback loop. Basically, enhance an image, take the result as input, enhance it again, and repeat until the engineers get bored. The results are pretty astounding, with the software, basically, creating new objects out of thin air, leading to final images that look like trippy artwork in hypnotizing colors.


Check out the original post over at Google’s blog to learn more.


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2 Responses

  1. Michael Coleman

    I have to admit, I’ve never-ever seen a cloud that looks like a horse that has a Rottweiller’s head sticking out of its back. whoa!

    Those two images where the engineers kept inputting the data over and over until they got bored… well those are so beautiful, I think they could be sold as giant framed prints for hanging on the wall. They really are quite stunning.

    The one where the robot sees the fish in the clouds — I see the fish too, lol.

  2. christina

    inceptionism, love it! this is so sweet, I’ve never see anything like it before. there are so many cool shapes and colors, this is definitely original. this would be so much fun to do, especially for those of us with good cameras and of course photographers. imagine all the beauty that can be found while traveling in taking images on the go and later translating them into such masterpieces. Google has a ton of cool technology, and this goes to show that they are always evolving, and have lots of creative individuals behind their company. photoshop could never do anything like this that i know of! the last picture is super cool, it looks like animals maybe dogs or goats coming through the body of a knight, wow. i’m very interested to see the coding behind this as well.


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