Paint By Numbers

With a little help from AI, you can now create a Bob Ross-style landscape in seconds.

In March, researchers from NVIDIA unveiled GauGAN, a system that uses AI to transform images scribbled onto a Microsoft Paint-like canvas into photorealistic landscapes — just choose a label such as “water,” “tree,” or “mountain” the same way you’d normally choose a color, and the AI takes care of the rest.

At the time, they described GauGAN as a “smart paintbrush” — and now, they’ve released an online beta demo so you can try it out for yourself.

Art Expert

The level of detail included in NVIDIA’s system is remarkable.

Draw a vertical line with a circle at the top using the “tree” label, for example, and the AI knows to make the bottom part the trunk and the top part the leaves. Add snow to the ground, and the foliage disappears, leaving behind just the barren tree branches.

Place a pond beneath the tree, and you’ll see its reflection appear in the water.

“It’s like a coloring book picture that describes where a tree is, where the sun is, where the sky is,” Bryan Catanzaro, NVIDIA’s VP of applied deep learning research, explained in a blog post in March. “And then the neural network is able to fill in all of the detail and texture, and the reflections, shadows and colors, based on what it has learned about real images.”