Shutterstock, the $2 billion market cap digital content company, has just announced the launch of a free AI generative art service. The announcement wasn’t exactly unexpected, but even so it’s going to rock the foundations of the creative arts industry to its core.
It’s one thing to watch small upstart companies like Stability AI and Midjourney unveil artificially generated imagery. It’s altogether another to see a publicly quoted giant like Shutterstock embrace the technology as a first mover advantage.
The company is calling the new service an ‘AI image generation platform’, and it’s certainly hit the ground running. Instead of all the complicated stuff most AI art services demand, the Shutterstock experience is quick and easy. Just fill in the box as you would with a search engine, and 10 seconds later out pops your desired image.
No fuss, no muss. And if your first pass is not ideal (and it probably won’t be), then there’s a handy set of prompt boxes you can use to improve your results.
It’s perfect for Joe or Molly Public who just want to grab a quick image to put on a greetings card, or fill space on their blog, without all the hassle of licensing or paying a royalty fee. The collage above was created by simply writing ‘white horse, sunny beach, palm trees’ into the box.
The Future’s So Bright, We’ve Gotta Wear ShAIdes
So what will this mean to the creators, publishers and guardians of illustrative art and photography? Well your guess is as good as ours. It’s important to remember that this is just the very beginning of this whole AI thing. 120 days ago, none of it existed in this format. Or rather it did, but it was carefully hidden away and protected from the public eye.
Then the open source Stable Diffusion launch happened, and the whole thing exploded. And how.
Already we can see the world scrambling to adjust to the new reality. One where illustration, design and the whole creative arts machine unravels at the edges. Not right now, but in a year or so, once the technology matures and the results start to become more reliable and flawless. We can’t remember a more disruptive technology impacting the creative arts since the explosion of synthesizers and sequencers hit the market in the mid 80s.
But those tools were primitive compared to the type of technology we’re seeing today. The massive advance in computer and graphics processing power, and the advances in programming capabilities have transformed the landscape in ways we could only imagine back then.
No, AI art is not stealing!
So it’s time to buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life. Because this is just the start of the AI revolution. And for all of those who are up in arms about AI stealing from artists, we suggest you take time to understand exactly what this tech is doing. It’s not scraping millions of artists work, it’s scraping the rules by which different styles of art is created. Take a look at this simple diagram to see what that means exactly.
The AI Eco-system Is Growing Super Fast
Computer generated creativity is not just coming for art. Early indications are that it’s spreading like an out of control Australian wildfire. The Futurepedia website currently lists over 700 new AI applications which have exploded onto the market over the past six months. With around 10 to 20 being added each and every day.
Personal assistants, interior design gurus, music makers, coding buddies and our favorite for the future, AI image training to let computers recognize things at scale. And not just face recognition, but things like agriculture pests, traffic flows and suchlike. By democratizing this sort of tech, we’re going to see an absolute explosion of new applications over the coming months and years. Just take a look at the video below, which was automatically created from this post by AI app Fliki.ai.
One day we’ll be able to tell our children, #wewerethere.
But just in case we’re accused of naivety over the potential dangers of this tech spreading, we’re going to add a cautionary note. The potential for good is huge with AI. But, as with so many things, so is the potential for harm. Without a considered approach to the introduction and use of this amazing, but slightly scary, tech, we could find ourselves grappling with some awful consequences In a decade or so. Some we can foresee, and some we can’t.
Let’s hope that we avoid the worst, and reap the benefits in an egalitarian, just, compassionate and above all, sustainable way. Good luck to us all.