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Researchers Are Teaching Artificial Intelligence How to Terrify Humans

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How the Nightmare Machine transformed an image of the Statue of Liberty.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have trained a computer to make images scarier.

Credit: MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have trained a computer to produce scary images as part of a deep-learning project called the Nightmare Machine.

"Creating a visceral emotion such [as] fear remains one of the cornerstones of human creativity," the researchers say. "This challenge is especially important in a time where we wonder what the limits of artificial intelligence are: can machines learn to scare us?"

The team fed a body of terrifying images to an algorithm to evoke certain distinct aesthetics. When presented with ordinary pictures, the algorithm would use its acquired knowledge to tweak the images in spooky ways, such as transforming a photo of the Statue of Liberty under a clear sky into an image of the landmark in the midst of a ghostly storm.

The Nightmare Machine is even more adept at generating ghoulish images of disfigured human faces.

The MIT researchers are asking people to vote on which of the algorithm-produced faces is most terrifying so they can refine it.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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