Microsoft Azure helps researchers analyze the paintings of Rembrandt

From lie detector to financial models, Microsoft researchers seem to have the greatest freedom in utilizing the company’s resources to demonstrate the wonders of technology in every aspect of life. Even painting, a very human domain, has not been left untouched: a new cooperative project between Redmond and several Dutch institutions, is resurrecting one of the greatest painters of all time, Rembrandt, through the power of Microsoft Azure.

Called “The Next Rembrandt”, the project’s main goal is to generate a new painting that follows as closely Rembrandt’s creative tendencies as possible, or in other words, something the artist might have painted himself.

Final product of "The New Rembrandt" project. Rembrandt would be proud.

Final product of “The Next Rembrandt” project. Rembrandt would be proud.

This is achieved by analyzing 346 of Rembrandt’s works upscaled with machine learning, measuring 60 points in each painting, determining every features about his style, from eye distance, to colors, character race, age, face measurements, and even height maps of the paint itself. The result, after 18 months of intense Rembrandt research, is a “portrait of a Caucasian male with facial hair, between 30-40 years old, dark clothing with a collar, wearing a hat, and facing to the right”, which then gets 3D-printed out to a pretty impressive result.

Of course, the great artist cannot be demonstrated as a mere algorithm: as the post alludes, the final painting is not meant to be the definitive new piece in Rembrandt’s portfolio had he stayed alive and kept on painting; instead it’s “a visualization of data in a beautifully creative form”.  It won’t be long before the approach is used on other disciplines of art; it is up to us humans to decide when, or if ever, we would be able to accept a computer-generated concerto as true art.

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