Microsoft takes AI image generation mainstream, strolling into ethics minefield

Enlarge / A preview of Microsoft Designer’s AI text-to-image function, which may generate pictures from written prompts.


During a Surface press occasion at this time, Microsoft introduced integrations of AI-powered image-generation expertise into its Bing search engine, Edge browser, and a brand new Office app referred to as Microsoft Designer. The expertise will probably be powered by DALL-E 2 by OpenAI, which made waves in April for its means to generate novel pictures primarily based on written prompts. The expertise has additionally been the topic of ire amongst some artists resulting from moral issues.

Microsoft’s choices goal to assist creators overcome blank-page syndrome by suggesting inventive programs of motion. In an instance of Microsoft Designer offered by Microsoft, somebody sorts an outline of what they wish to see, akin to “Ombre cake decorated with flowers and fall foliage,” and so they can then scroll by AI-generated image examples that they will select so as to add to their design. “Designer invites you to start with an idea and let the AI do the heavy lifting,” wrote Microsoft in a press launch.

An animated GIF preview of the Microsoft Designer app's Enlarge / An animated GIF preview of the Microsoft Designer app’s “Start From Scratch” function, offered by Microsoft.


Microsoft Designer originated as a part of PowerPoint, the place it presently suggests design concepts as a subset of that program. But Microsoft plans to interrupt out Designer into its personal Microsoft 365 app that will probably be accessible each as a free app and as a premium app accessible to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers. For now, Microsoft is limiting Designer to a free public net app, which it can use to collect suggestions from public testing.

An animated GIF preview of Image Creator from Microsoft Bing, provided by Microsoft.

An animated GIF preview of Image Creator from Microsoft Bing, offered by Microsoft.


Microsoft additionally introduced that will probably be integrating Designer into Microsoft Edge to ship “AI-powered design suggestions to visually enhance social media posts and other visual content without having to leave your browser window.” And AI image synthesis may even come to Bing with Image Creator, the place folks will be capable of kind in a immediate and get a novel end result, powered by OpenAI’s DALL-E 2.


The moral elephant within the room

Since OpenAI debuted DALL-E 2 in April, AI image generation has been controversial with some artists due to the way it works. Image synthesis fashions like DALL-E 2 use deep-learning neural networks to research tens of millions or billions of pictures discovered publicly on the net with out searching for consent from artists or copyright holders. These fashions, together with DALL-E competitor Stable Diffusion, statistically hyperlink the content material of these pictures with descriptive captions discovered on the net to affiliate them with phrases. The result’s that these fashions can generate pictures primarily based on textual content descriptions, and so they can imitate the distinctive kinds of particular human artists.

Further, the creators of those image synthesis fashions warning that they replicate social biases akin to racism and sexism of their coaching information, and they’re additionally able to producing disturbing or unlawful imagery if safeguards aren’t put in place. Microsoft says it’s addressing these points: “To help prevent DALL∙E 2 from delivering inappropriate results across the Designer app and Image Creator, we are working ourselves and with our partner OpenAI, who developed DALL-E 2, to take steps and will continue to evolve our approach as needed.”

Mitigations embody eradicating “the most explicit sexual and violent content” from the coaching dataset and including filters to “limit generation of images that violate content policy.” Regarding bias, Microsoft mentions making use of “additional technology that helps deliver more diverse images to our results,” which is probably going the identical because the random numerous immediate injections OpenAI launched to DALL-E in July, which was met with some controversy itself. Perhaps due to these points, Microsoft is taking a slow-release method as a substitute of utterly opening the gates.

“We are taking a measured approach to roll out [Image Creator],” wrote Microsoft in a press launch. “We will soon start with a limited preview for select geographies, which will allow us to gather feedback, apply learnings, and improve the experience before expanding further.”

With these strikes from Microsoft, image synthesis instruments are rapidly changing into extra mainstream. Canva added text-to-image generation capabilities in mid-September.


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