With the advances in artificial intelligence technology, creating realistic images now only takes a minute or less by just providing a text prompt. These images look shockingly convincing at first glance, but if you look closely you’ll find some oddities. Learn the tips and tricks here to distinguish what is real versus what is made by AI.
Spot visual patterns and artifacts
Images generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) may show repeating patterns and symmetrical features. Check images for common objects that may appear multiple times with the same shape and size.
For example, look at the clouds in the sky, the waves in the ocean, the feathers on birds, or the petals of flowers. Although natural objects may exhibit repetitive patterns, AI-generated images may display these patterns with an uncanny level of precision and make the symmetry appear too perfect.
Look for inconsistent, unrealistic or high-level details
While an AI can display perfect symmetry, from time to time it can also be inconsistent. AI does not experience the world in the same way that humans do. Even if it’s trained with large amounts of data in its machine learning algorithm, an AI may still fail to fully comprehend the nuances and details of the images it’s trying to create. The resulting output may turn out to be a hodgepodge of features and attributes with anomalies that are obviously unrealistic to the common eye.
When you examine portraits with human subjects, for instance, look for oddities like distorted facial features, extra fingers on hands, or body parts that are bent at an unusual angle. Also check for missing reflections, unnatural lighting, and weird colors. Building, landscapes, and objects that seem to be defying gravity and other laws of physics may also be tell-tale signs of an AI-generated image.
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Take the image meta, source, and intent into account
Computer image files have metadata embedded in them. These metadata include copyright information, the date when the image was created, camera settings, what software was used to produce the image, and other details to describe the various aspects of the image. Use an image editor or dedicated viewer to see what valuable metadata an image contains as these could help clue you in on whether the image was created using AI.
Consider the source of the image as well. In social media platforms, for example, you are likely to stumble upon uploaded AI-generated images that have been finetuned for maximum novelty and emotional appeal in order to go viral. News websites, on the other hand, with their concerns about authenticity and upholding editorial standards, are less likely to distribute images made by AI without full disclosure.
And then there’s the intent too. Did you chance upon an image that provoke fear and encourages hate speech? How about photos of politicians and celebrities apparently caught engaging in sexual acts or other controversies? With artificial intelligence, it’s easy to create deepfakes to ruin a person’s reputation.
Check public discourse
Luckily, you are not alone in exposing AI-generated images. While deceitful minds who spread misinformation are rampant online, there are also many trustworthy and knowledgeable individuals who can assist you in verifying the authenticity of an image. Often in public discussion websites like Reddit, you may find posts where users comment to expose fake images through forensic analysis, providing sources, or sharing fact-checking websites.
Tools are available online that you can use to spot AI-generated images. For example, you can use reverse image search tools to identify modified or manipulated images.
On their own, the abovementioned ways are not foolproof. It may require a combination of these methods to effectively spot AI-made images. And with the rapid evolution of the technology, it’s also best you keep yourself informed on the latest breakthroughs and gain a sense of what is currently possible with AI image generation. Finally, it’s always a good practice to remain skeptical of images you find online.