Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm not a poet, which is why this line does not rhyme (oops!) or follow any sort of convention. But do you know who is a poet? Or rather, what is a poet? A new experiment by Google that taps into machine learning. It is called POEMPORTRAITS (all caps, for some reason), and it uses artificial intelligence to generate a poem based on your input.
I'll just refer to it as Poem Portraits from here on out. it was created by Es Devlin, an artist and stage designer, in collaboration with the Google Arts & Culture Lab and Ross Goodwin.
"Ross trained an algorithm to learn to write poems by reading over 25 million words written by 19th century poets. It works a bit like predictive text: it doesn’t copy or rework existing phrases, but uses its training material to build a complex statistical model. As a result, the algorithm generates original phrases emulating the style of what it’s been trained on," Devlin explains.
According to Devlin, the poems that are generated can range from "surprisingly poignant" to "nonsensical." In my limited time playing around with it, the AI-generated poems fall somewhere in between.
The way it works is you head over to the Poem Portraits website and "donate" a word. Your choice of word gets added to the database, if it's not already there, and becomes part of an "evolving collective poem." Optionally, Poem Portraits will snap a pic of your mug.
In my first attempt at doing this over the web, the site would not recognize my Logitech webcam. I'm not sure why (it otherwise works), but I forged ahead, sans selfie, with the word "frayed." Poem Portraits took the root word and came up with, "Fray kindles the fair days of Heaven, This dog and care and martyrs are all the living."
I'm not sure if that falls into the poignant or nonsensical category—it depends on your interpretation, I suppose. I feel like it starts off poignant, then trails off into weirdness, particularly with the inclusion of the word "care" shoehorned in. I also prefer Bud Light over a fancy IPA, so maybe it's just me.
For my second attempt, I whipped out my smartphone and headed to the site, and the front-facing camera worked like a charm. I donated the world "circumstance" for this round.
"A circumstance of the fair harmony of the starts, Finagle and Tower," is what it came up with for this round. Once again, I feel like it starts off rather interesting, then trips at the finish line. Of course, it's all up for interpretation.
It's a fun little thing, though not so little when viewed more broadly. This is another example of machine learning and how we can interact with AI. I'm not sure if Google is using this information for some bigger purpose, but certainly AI is growing in importance—it's used in variety of applications, from predicative healthcare and the study of weather patterns, to self-driving vehicles and now poetry.
If you want to give Poem Portraits a try, just follow this link and (optionally) have your camera ready.