Category: cat photography

Real Cats vs AI-Generated Cats II: Which Kitties Were Real?

After a few days of patiently waiting, we finally have a winner in our unofficial contest from earlier this week.

Reader Romulo Pietrangeli got it right: None of the cats pictured in our April 13 post are real felines.

All nine images were created by the machine learning algorithm that powers the site This Cat Does Not Exist, a riff on the original This Person Does Not Exist, a site that uses generative adversarial networks (GANS) to create stunningly realistic images of people on the fly.

(Above: All six images above are computer-generated using the same technology behind ThisCatDoesNotExist.)

Phillip Wang, the 33-year-old software engineer behind both sites (and a few others using the same tech and concept), explained to Inverse in an earlier interview why he created ThisPersonDoesNotExist.

“I’m basically at the point in my life where I’m going to concede that super-intelligence will be real and I need to devote my remaining life to [it],” Wang said. “The reaction speaks to how much people are in the dark about A.I. and its potential.”

Because the internet is ruled by cats, it was only a matter of time before a feline-generating version of the human-creating algorithm was brought online.

(Above: More artificially-generated cats. Artefacts in the images can sometimes give away the fact that they’re fake, such as the third image in the second row, where part of the cat’s fur is transparent.)

A CNN article from 2019 explains how GAN technology works:

In order to generate such images, StyleGAN makes use of a machine-learning method known as a GAN, or generative adversarial network. GANs consist of two neural networks — which are algorithms modeled on the neurons in a brain — facing off against each other to produce real-looking images of everything from human faces to impressionist paintings. One of the neural networks generates images (of, say, a woman’s face), while the other tries to determine whether that image is a fake or a real face.

Wang, who said his software “dreams up a new face every two seconds,” told CNN he hoped his creations would spark conversation and get people to think critically about what they see in front of them. It looks like he’s achieved his goal.

Christopher Schmidt, a Google engineer who used the same technology to create fake home and rental interiors, agreed.

“Maybe we should all just think an extra couple of seconds before assuming something is real,” Schmidt told CNN.

Pietrangeli, for his part, says he can tell the difference: “All of the animal images,” he wrote, “lacked ‘aura.'”

Can You Tell The Real Cats From The Computer-Generated Kitties?

There’s a new tool that uses algorithmic artificial intelligence to create random images of cats, and the results are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

Can you tell which cats are real and which ones are computer-generated? (Kindly share your answers in the comments, numbering them from left to right. The person with the best score gets bragging rights!)

We’ll follow up with the answers after everyone’s had a day to make their guesses or informed choices, as it were.

The algorithm was created by a process called machine learning, which you’ve probably heard at some point even if you haven’t sought out information about artificial intelligence. 

In simple terms, machine learning means the creators fed massive amounts of data — millions of photos of cats — to the software algorithm. The algorithm analyzes the data and learns how patterns in the data create accurate images of felines.

Crucially, the algorithm never learns what a cat actually is. It doesn’t know a cat is an animal in the real world. It doesn’t know what the real world is, and it doesn’t know what animals are. All it knows is that data, organized a certain way, produces images that look like the photos it’s been fed.

That’s a key difference because, while we have made huge strides with machine learning, that’s not the kind of artificial intelligence the Elon Musks of the world freak out about when they smoke pot and watch The Matrix. We’ll never have to worry about our cat-generating algorithms rising up and eliminating humanity. 🙂

Artificial general intelligence — or AGI — is the potentially dangerous form of AI, but that’s a whole other piece of business: It involves recreating consciousness and the mind on a machine substrate.

We can’t even define consciousness and we know shockingly little about how the brain works, so that’s not happening any time soon. And even if we could it off, there’s a growing body of evidence supporting the concept of embodied cognition. That’s the idea that the mind cannot be separate from the brain, and the brain cannot be separate from the body, as well as a recognition that everything from pain signals to gut flora has an effect on our cognitive routines.

The bottom line: “AI” can get pretty good at making pictures of cats, but it’s not taking over the world any time soon.

What Kind Of Cat Is This?

A reader in Alabama sent this image to the Bangor Daily News and asked for help identifying the cat.

Like many other states, Alabama is home to bobcats and cougars, but we can cross them both off the list: The long tail eliminates the possibility of a bobcat, while the coat pattern and build of the cat rules out a puma.

Aside from puma, bobcats and the lynx, almost all other species of wild cat in the western hemisphere are found only in South America.

The cat in the photo is muscular and looks like it’s taking a leisurely stroll, but something in the wooded area has caught its attention. The dipped tail may indicate uncertainty. Its tabby stripes are well-defined but broken, a trait often seen in domestic cats.

Finally, although Bangor says there’s not much to help put the cat’s overall size in context, it’s almost certainly smaller than it looks, judging from the barrel in the background. In fact, if you expand the image and look closely at the barrel, you can see there’s an arched entry cut out of it, and it’s secured to some kind of foundation. Who knows, maybe someone converted it into a small shelter for this cat and other strays.

I took the image, cropped it close, tried to enhance the details as much as possible without ruining the data, and got this:

The mystery cat of Alabama

My verdict: It’s a domestic cat.

The proportions, tail and gait are all consistent with a domestic cat, as is the coat pattern. The cat in the photo doesn’t resemble any local wild cats, and the cat isn’t as large as it may initially appear.

What do you think?

We Want YOUR Cat Featured On PITB!

The only thing better than cats is, well, more cats.

That’s why we’d like to introduce a new feature in which we profile our readers’ little buddies. It’s a win-win: You get your unique kitty featured on the blog, and the rest of us get to see more cats.

Buddy, in his infinite wisdom and generosity, has allowed me to implement this feature, “as long as the other cats don’t upstage me.” I also had to bribe him by promising to buy him a pirate eyepatch and a plush canary for his shoulder.

Interested in having your kitty featured? Head to the contact page, say hello and tell us a little bit about your cat. We’ll respond with a handful of questions. We’ll also need at least three good, high-res images of your cat, so have them ready to send when we correspond. (Don’t worry if they’re not pro quality! Mostly we’re looking for clear, close shots.)

That’s it! Right now the plan is for this to be an occasional feature, but if we get enough responses we’d be delighted to make this a regular weekly or twice-weekly thing.

All photos in this post courtesy of Pexels.

My Favorite Photos Of My Best Little Buddy

Here’s my newest favorite photo of the Budster, which you guys have seen in the humor post about Buddy’s gallery exhibit at the Louvre:

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This photo is so Buddy. He’s sitting in the coffee table and staring at me with that classic Buddy expression on his face, which usually means he’s waiting for me to play hunting games with him, or just to give him a few scratches on his head and tell him he’s a good boy.

This next one is a random shot, taken with my old iphone when Bud was just laying down and looking cute:

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I loved the photo from the moment I snapped it, but I loved it even more when a reader saw it and remarked that it looked like the little guy was “radiating love” at me behind the camera. Either that or he’s thinking “Don’t dally, human, run and fetch my snacks!”

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This one was taken outdoors on the balcony. Bud loves to soak up the sun and warmth during the spring and summer. In the natural light you can really see his coat pattern, his unbroken tabby stripes and the deep green of his eyes. In indoor artificial light, his eyes appear a different shade of green and sometimes yellow. His coat pattern also appears much more subtle under LED and incandescent lighting.

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Here’s the little dude as a baby. Unfortunately I took most of his kitten photos with an old iPhone and they’re not very good.

Still, I do miss his kitten days when I look at these shots. Bud was quite a fuzzy kitten. He was a talker from the very beginning, and even if I couldn’t see him at a particular moment, I always knew where he was because I could hear him chatting away and all his exclamations as he played with plastic bottle caps or gleefully knocked things off shelves.

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Buddy on a rainy day, staring out from inside the sliding glass door leading to the balcony. He looks bummed that the sun isn’t out.

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More baby photos! I remember showing some of these shots to my brother when we went hiking one weekend a few weeks after I’d adopted the Budster. My brother, who should be one to talk as he dotes on his beloved dog, said: “I think you’re in love!”

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You don’t wanna mess with these guns! Buddy flexing his considerable muscles.

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Kitten loaf!

I do have a few decent kitten photos taken with the Canon T3. This was before I took a photography course and learned how to properly use the damn thing. I like to think I’ve come a decent way since then. As in the previous kitten photo, Bud’s eyes were the familiar kitten gray before they began to turn the now-familiar deep green in adulthood.

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I really like this one. There’s nothing too special about it, but the little guy is intently focused on something and looks happy.

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Another one with the classic “Buddy look.” He’s a very vocal cat and was probably trilling with interest at something when I took this shot.

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A fairly recent shot from the past month or two. I like this one. Buddy is very expressive, and this photo captures his whimsical look pretty well.

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And finally we have Chubby Buddy pulling off a classic loaf pose and undoubtedly thinking about delicious turkey.