You want to know my favorite thing about the internet? There’s an endless supply of cat photos! Cat photos immediately boost my mood; I have such affection for the furry little critters that simply seeing one makes me feel better. They don’t even have to be doing anything! That combination of big, green eyes, a little pink nose, and whiskers is all it takes to put a smile on my face. I guess I just enjoy knowing they exist. Even if they’re cats I’ll never know personally.
That’s why I have super complicated feelings about a website I just learned about today. It’s called This Cat Does Not Exist. And as the title implies, it’s full of photos of cats that are not real. If you go to the site, it’s just a black background with a single photo in the middle. Every time you refresh, you get a new cat. And every single time, the cat in question doesn’t exist. Because these cats are GAN-generated. That means they’re created by an algorithm that synthesizes photorealistic fake kitties.
None of these cats exist. All are GAN-generated images obtained from https://t.co/AEMYeQ4ZrO. Can we come up with a way to detect GAN-generated cat pics? #CaturdayShenaniGANs— Conspirador Norteño (@conspirator0) April 10, 2021
(GAN = "generative adversarial network", the AI technique used to create the images)
cc: @ZellaQuixote pic.twitter.com/gsaPJPGKEX
This isn’t new tech—we’ve actually seen it used before with human photos, too. But there’s something haunting when it’s applied to kitties. Maybe it’s the not-quite-right presentation of cat hair. Or maybe it’s that their eyes don’t look entirely normal. Sometimes the proportions are off, as if the tech blended a kitten face with a cat body. But for the most part, these felines look pretty real. So knowing that they’re not? Knowing these photos are just simulations? It’s trippy, for sure.
This Cat Does Not Exist
The Verge, where we first learned about the site, has some pointers on how to tell these images are fake. The fur is never quite right; it looks blurry around the edges in most photos. They also noted that the images are face-only. No body shots to make things extra complicated.
I’m not entirely sure why this site exists. I guess to prove that AI technology is freaky as hell. In that way, it totally succeeds.