Algorithm Can Assess Art Aesthetics

November 17th, 2011



New technology from Xerox can sort photos not just by their content but also according to their aesthetic qualities, such as which portraits are close-in and well-lit, or which wildlife shots are least cluttered.

Still in the prototype stage, the technology could eventually help with tasks like choosing which of hundreds of digital photos taken on a family vacation should appear in a photo album. It could help stock agencies sort photos by their characteristics, and it could be deployed inside a camera to help people delete lower-quality scenes quickly, saving on storage space and hassle.

“What they show is that now you don’t need a human to select images that are going to be judged beautiful,” says Aude Oliva, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, who also works on image recognition. “You can run the algorithm, and it will give a good estimate.”

And how does it assess what is good? Through crowdsourcing:

The Xerox system learns about quality photography by studying photos that had previously been chosen for public display in online photo albums, such as public ones shown on Facebook, or photos tagged as high quality on Flickr. Then it notes common characteristics of these photos.

Soon, it will be able to assess the quality, and effectiveness, of writing–for my purposes legal writing.