An Imaginative Robot That Sees Faces In Clouds

Think humans are unique in seeing faces in clouds? Think again.

We often cite creativity as the driving force of human intellect–this mystical means to producing original, strange thoughts that others will want to think, too. Creativity fuels the arts just like it fuels breakthroughs in math and science, and so it will be creativity that keeps humans relevant in the age of artificial intelligence.


It all sounds so reassuring, but Cloud Face, by studio Shinseungback Kimyonghun, is a piece of software that can spot faces in clouds–just like us humans. But it’s not some God-given spark that drives the process. Rather, it was an unforeseen glitch that cropped up during another, I might call it, Jackass-worthy art project.

“One day, I hooked a webcam and a snack bag, and cast the fishing rod out to the window of my studio,” the studio’s Kim Yong Hun explains. “I expected that it would capture faces of passersby when they look at the bait. After a few hours later, it actually got some faces of people staring at it. However, there were also many images that were not faces. That was because the face-detection algorithm often found patterns of building walls and streets as faces.

“Pulling up the fishing rod one afternoon, I looked up in the sky and thought, ‘What if I use this error and have it find faces in clouds?.’ The discovery of the error led me to explore computer’s vision itself.”

That exploration led to several haunting photographs, a few fantastic animated gifs, and a giant printed collage of 75 faces in the sky–all spotted by a mere piece of software. Looking through the images almost kicks you in the gut. Because it’s one thing if Facebook can auto-tag my friend’s faces on my uploaded photographs, but it’s a whole other thing if some snippet of code can lay beside me on a grassy knoll, point to the sky, and make a convincing argument as to why a bit of puffy condensation resembles a dude on a train eating a donut.

But once I get after the initial shock, I realize, with all these cloud-gazing robots, what a welcoming place our future could be.

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[Hat tip: Triangulation]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.