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How my Google Pixel phone turned my photos into an AI nightmare

How my Google Pixel phone turned my photos into an AI nightmare


Digital Trends

Artificial intelligence is a big tech trend this year, propelled as a key feature in smartphones, laptops and creative endeavors, and one of the ways it's doing so is through AI-powered photo editing.

I've been playing around with Google's AI in Google Photos, and while I don't want to spread scare stories about AI being very bad for humanity in general, what I've found is downright terrifying. Join me as I guide you through the bevy of nightmarish monsters created by Google's apparently mad AI.

What's so bad? Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I've been trying out Magic Editor, a generative AI feature within Google Photos, on my new Google Pixel 8a. It's pretty clever, allowing you to change the sky, water, and scenery in your images, add portrait effects, remove unwanted objects, and even re-create scenes by moving objects. One of the generative AI filters available is called “Stylized,” and if you haven't tried it yet, it really lets your AI creativity run wild. The results are often quite unusual.

They often give photos an abstract style or make them look like classic watercolors or oil paintings. But sometimes they go completely off the rails, especially when they're faced with some kind of creature. Google's AI doesn't really “understand” animals. It knows there's something in the photo, but it's not really interested in reality or context, and is rather interested in conjuring something that belongs in a nightmare.

Animals you definitely don't want to pet 1. Before 2. After

I don't think I need to explain any further, because it's much easier to show you what goes on in the dark corners of Google's AI. We'll start with a photo of a regular sheep and lamb. When the AI ​​looks at it closely, it becomes a photo of a creature worthy of the world of Silent Hill, whose terrifying elongated jaws will inevitably turn and lunge at me, causing me to flee in terror.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

And that's just the beginning: a scene showing a bunch of swans having fun on the water transitions into a hellish landscape where the swans are frozen in time on a lake of scorched moss, and other swans seem to emerge from the water in the background. The tone is very different to the original, exuding the atmosphere of a nuclear war memorial.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

Going further, I discovered that Google's AI has a deep distrust for squirrels: in its overzealous mind, the once-cute squirrel I photographed has one short forearm and an unnaturally long one, plus dark, lifeless eyes that would make even Quint from Jaws think twice about taking on it.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

To prove that Google's AI doesn't like squirrels and that its digital eyes can only see the blackest hearts when it looks at them, Digital Trends' mobile editor Joe Maring tried out the Magic Editor's Stylized mode, which processed a photo of a squirrel in a similar way. Again, he gave the squirrel the most evil eyes, added bat-like ears and menacing feet — just in case you still think squirrels are cute, sassy little creatures.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

The AI ​​is also picky about eyes, which are either completely evil or completely non-existent. One of the most terrifying creations is an eyeless, many-legged giraffe. I have to admit that if I had seen one creeping around during my visit to the safari park, I would have definitely taken a photo of it, and prayed I would never see it again.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

They may not have eyes, but they can certainly sense your presence, and the clatter of so many hooves may be the last sound you ever hear. Joe's camel photo has had a similar treatment, with its eyes removed, and now it has Dalmatian-like skin and a worrisome bone where the hump once was. I certainly wouldn't want to go to the corner of a safari park where these eyeless creatures roam.

Terrible experiment 1. Before 2. After

While these animals are transformed into creatures straight out of Pan's Labyrinth, Google's AI sometimes takes a different but equally disturbing approach. The animals created here are clearly the result of secret lab experiments to modify animals or fuse them with each other. Not quite as scary, but still wrong and very unsettling. A once normal and adorable Shetland pony has been transformed into a strange twin-tailed dog-pony hybrid, the product of horrific experiments to create “donnies” or “pogs” for super-rich geeks who are bored with regular pets.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

Luckily, this hawk looks rather gentle, and the trend continues in the next photo. The hawk is much more menacing in the original photo than in the Magic Editor version. The beak is softer, the feathers fluffier, and the eyes less manic. The AI ​​decided to remove the claws entirely, lest its new creation tear you apart and devour your flesh.

1. Before editing 2. After editing

When Google's AI goes deeper into the dream world, it sees a sheep made not of soft wool but of burlap or some other rough material. But if that wasn't weird enough, half of the sheep's face is normal and I'm trying not to look at what appears to be a mouth full of curved fangs. I imagine the words the AI ​​has written on the fence say “Danger, Burlap Sheep Runaway, Keep Out.”

1. Before editing 2. After editing

Finally, we have Magic Editor's cruellest animal experiment: an innocent turtle is transformed into something otherworldly, with fish, zebras, red pandas, lizards, and other who knows what else, coming together to form a nightmarish gestalt creature that no one should ever have to look at. Whatever is going on with Google's generative AI and animal photos, the turtle makes it very clear that it needs expert help.

Animals beware, Magic Editor Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

In most cases, the Magic Editor's Stylized filter edits your photos to make them unique and eye-catching, turning them into something you could never create yourself without special talent or a lot of time. But with animals, the filter seems perplexed, not knowing how to modify them, what belongs to them, what defines the creature and what doesn't. The results are unexpected and otherworldly.

Why not try applying our generative AI to your wildlife and pet photos? If you do, we take no responsibility for any sleepless nights the results may cause.

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