If you've spent any time on Twitter lately, you may have seen a viral black-and-white image depicting Jar Jar Binks at the Nuremberg Trials, or a courtroom sketch of Snoop Dogg being sued by Snoopy. These surreal creations are the products of Dall-E Mini, a popular web app that creates images on demand. Type in a prompt, and it will rapidly produce a handful of cartoon images depicting whatever you've asked for. More than 200,000 people are now using Dall-E Mini every day, its creator says--a number that is only growing. A Twitter account called "Weird Dall-E Generations," created in February, has more than 890,000 followers at the time of publication.
On June 6, Hugging Face, a company that hosts open source artificial intelligence projects, saw traffic to an AI image-generation tool called DALL-E Mini skyrocket. The outwardly simple app, which generates nine images in response to any typed text prompt, was launched nearly a year ago by an independent developer. But after some recent improvements and a few viral tweets, its ability to crudely sketch all manner of surreal, hilarious, and even nightmarish visions suddenly became meme magic. As more people created and shared DALL-E Mini images on Twitter and Reddit, and more new users arrived, Hugging Face saw its servers overwhelmed with traffic. "Our engineers didn't sleep for the first night," says Clément Delangue, CEO of Hugging Face, on a video call from his home in Miami.
An image of babies doing parkour generated by DALL-E mini. An image of babies doing parkour generated by DALL-E mini. DALL-E mini is the AI bringing to life all of the goofy "what if" questions you never asked: What if Voldemort was a member of Green Day? What if there was a McDonald's in Mordor? What if scientists sent a Roomba to the bottom of the Mariana Trench?
It only took Matt Laming, a 19-year-old from the United Kingdom, about a month to hit a million followers on Twitter. And all it required was sharing a steady stream of the most outlandish computer-generated images that he and a bunch of internet strangers could think up. In recent weeks, the digital marketing apprentice, better known online as @weirddalle, has shared images depicting things like people vacuuming in the forest, the Demogorgon from Netflix's "Stranger Things" holding a basketball, and a Beanie Baby that looks a lot like Danny DeVito. These and other pictures, which range from ridiculous to disturbing, were created with a freely available artificial intelligence system called Craiyon. To use it, you just type what you'd like it to envision -- "A rainbow lion eating a slice of pizza" -- and it will spit out pictures in response.
On the internet, nightmare fuel just about everywhere you look. The latest source: Dall-E Mini, an AI tool capturing attention on social media thanks to the weird, funny and occasionally disturbing images it creates out of text prompts. Dall-E Mini lets you type a short phrase describing an image, one that theoretically exists only in the deep recesses of your soul, and within a few seconds, the algorithm will manifest that image onto your screen. Odds are you've seen some Dall-E Mini images popping up in your social media feeds as people think of the wildest prompts they can -- perhaps it's Jon Hamm eating ham, or Yoda robbing a convenience store. This isn't the first time art and artificial intelligence have captured the internet's attention. There's a certain appeal to seeing how an algorithm tackles something as subjective as art.