Google launches tool to identify AI-generated images (but has a catch)

by Jerry

Google this week announced SynthID, a tool that identifies images created by Imagen, the company’s artificial intelligence that generates “photos” and art. SynthID works by creating a watermark “imperceptible to human eyes” and registered on the image pixels. The feature has been released to some subscribers of Vertex AI, a machine learning service available on Google Cloud.

Imagen is a product that integrates Vertex AI. Google has yet to announce a “public” version of this feature or something similar. OpenAI and Microsoft have already launched free services of this type — Dall-E and Bing Image Generator, respectively. However, more than creating photos and art, Imagen also allows the editing of images through prompts.

The announcement of the new tool was made on the blog of DeepMind, Google’s subsidiary for artificial intelligence development — and creator of AlphaGo and AlphaZero, AIs focused on learning games. And just like gamer AIs, SynthID has a specific purpose: to safeguard the “authenticity” of Google’s images.

SynthID knows if a photo is AI, but only if it’s from Imagen
As explained in the DeepMind post, SynthID can be used to identify whether an image was created by Imagen—and only by Imagen. The tool also allows users to place watermarks on the artwork and “photos” generated by artificial intelligence.

The company doesn’t make the following point quite clear, but it does hint that if you have an image generated by the company’s AI, SynthID can be used to register a watermark. This watermark should be standard on photos and artwork created for beta users — again, DeepMind isn’t direct about it.

What the company gives more details is about this such watermark. As opposed to placing the author’s identification in the corner of the image, SynthID records the “authenticity,” or “the origin,” of the file within the pixels—as if altering the “DNA.” Thus, the tool promises to identify whether the image was generated by Google’s AI even if it is cropped, passed through filters or inverted.

For now, only those who pay see the effectiveness of SynthID. Fortunately, Google has promised that it has plans to take the feature to other services. We’ll probably see SynthID as some “extra” in image search.

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