Bringing Van Gogh to Life: The Power of Machine Learning

Posted by: Andrew on: 11 November 2016

Dr Ahmed Selim of brings Van Gogh to life by demonstrating a new machine learning technique.

Dr Ahmed Selim has presented a new machine learning portrait technique capable of producing head portraits in the style of a given artist.

He presented his research work to mark Science Week 2016 at an event “Bringing van Gogh to Life: The Power of Machine Learning” organised by CONNECT in association with the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin at the Trinity Longroom Hub

The technique uses Deep Learning, which is a form of Machine Learning, to extract details from the photograph of an individual and combine these with details from a sample of an artist’s work. A painting is then produced of that individual in the style of the artist.

The technique has been developed by Dr Ahmed Selim in collaboration with Dr Mohammed Elgharib, at Qatar Computing Research Institute, and Professor Linda Doyle, Director of CONNECT and Professor of Engineering and the Arts at Trinity.

Their work was presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference in California, the world’s largest and most prestigious international conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.

Professor Linda Doyle said:

“Ahmed has combined cutting edge, Machine Learning techniques with some particularly creative insights to produce an output that is streets ahead of any of his competitors.

“This technique uses complex algorithms to combine information about the identity of an individual with information from the style of an artist to produce a faithful head portrait. In essence, the machine is being taught to do the job of the painter.

“The underlying mathematics can also be extended to other domains in the areas of health and telecommunications.”

“There is tremendous commercial potential for a technique like this. The gift market is an obvious one. Portrait painting is a popular genre.”

Dr Ahmed Selim said:

“We have extended our technique to work with video and we are exploring the ability of producing style transfer in real time. There is tremendous potential for the use of the technique in social networks, gaming, animation and the film industry.”

“Automated portrait painting is particularly challenging. There are already generic painting techniques available but these often deform facial features. Our technique avoids these pitfalls completely.  It better captures the painterly qualities of the painting while at the same time better capturing the identity of the individual to be painted.”

CONNECT is the world leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications. CONNECT is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres Programme and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund. We engage with over 35 companies including large multinationals, SMEs and start-ups. CONNECT brings together world-class expertise from ten Irish academic institutes to create a one-stop-shop for telecommunications research, development and innovation.


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