Is AI Ready for the Catwalks of Paris?
To date, practical AI applications have centered around finding patterns within a sea of data. It’s what makes a Google search seem intelligent, cameras able to detect faces and IT systems expose a network attack. But can AI deliver us with a system that can think for itself; will it ever compete with humans in creating art?
For outsiders, high fashion and the clothing displayed on a Paris catwalk can seem worlds away from the realities of the high street. This intrigued the cross-platform online clothing retailer Zalando to partner with Google on Project Muze. The aim? To discover whether an AI platform could become a fashion designer.
The basic principle of design is simple. All designers draw upon previous work, examine the materials they have around them, and then develop variations on a concept to see which has the most commercial success. With an understanding of trends and what is currently fashionable, the resulting design will have a higher likelihood of success. This, it would seem, is a process that transfers easily to technology.
Built upon Google’s TensorFlow AI framework, UK-based production company Stinkdigital developed a “design engine” that was trained by over 600 trendsetters from the fashion industry. This was then coupled with Google’s Fashion Trends Report and styles determined as trending by Zalando. The result was a platform that allowed users to provide input on their personality and interests, together with a simple sketch on a mannequin, that produced some wild and zany designs.
Project Muze was showcased at the Bread&Butter trend show in Berlin, with visitors interacting with the platform on tablets and large screens. In addition, Zalando’s designers turned three designs into real-life clothing, based on a collaboration with three prominent fashion bloggers.
So, should the fashion boutiques of Paris, Milan and New York be worried? Probably. Some of the designs generated did not seem any crazier to the untrained eye than the impractical attire tottering on high heels on a fashion show catwalk. So, if that is what sets the trends, AI might just have the upper hand.