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This trippy Blade Runner AI video tricked Warner Bros.

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Blade Runner
Blade Runner (1982), a sci-fi noir film directed by Ridley Scott, based on Philip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep (1962)

Takedown notices for copyrighted content happen all the time, partly because computers can work out when a video is stolen. But sometimes, computers get it wrong.

Warner Bros. recently issued a DMCA takedown notice for a video on Vimeo containing Blade Runner footage. The problem, however, is that the video didn’t feature any footage from the movie at all. In fact, it was a mind-bending reconstruction of the movie, created entirely be an artificial intelligence, as first reported by Vox.

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The video was in question was masterminded by Terence Broad, a London-based researcher who’s working on a master’s degree in creative computing. Broad basically fed an artificial neural network – a computer-based replica of the human brain – footage of the movie. He hoped that by doing so, his AI could eventually learn to encode and decode video on its own.

Here's the deal. Normally, when you watch a video, it’s been encoded (compressed) and decoded (compressed). That’s how big files are made small enough to be useful both on- and off-line. Humans developed these compression methods, deciding how best to package content. But Broad is trying to teach neural networks to develop their own methods, sans humanity.

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The result of this is…weird. Broad’s AI has basically churned out some kind of hideous, mangled Blade Runner-esque movie that will make you question everything. The AI basically reduced all of the frame data to 200-digit versions, and then reconstructed this data into new frames. It then resequenced the new frames to match the order of the film, with horrifying results.

Check out the side-by-side comparison:

The video has since been reinstated on Vimeo, but a 10-minute version of the AI-spawned movie has been taken down on YouTube. It’s not yet clear whether that decision will be reversed.

In any case, it seems Broad’s choice of Blade Runner was seriously appropriate. After all, the movie is based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?, which is all about artificial intelligence becoming so advanced that humans struggle to tell androids apart from the general population. Maybe Warner Bros. could learn a thing or two from the book.

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Here’s the taken-down video on YouTube:

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What did you think of the AI-generated Blade Runner? Let us know in the comments.

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