Ancient Roman emperors’ faces have been brought to life in digital reconstructions; the unnervingly realistic image project includes the Emperors Caligula, Nero and Hadrian, among others.
The features of these long-dead rulers have been preserved in hundreds of sculptures, but even the most detailed carvings can’t convey what these men truly looked like when they were alive. To explore that, Canadian cinematographer and virtual reality designer Daniel Voshart used machine learning — computer algorithms that learn through experience — in a neural network, a computing system processes information through hierarchies of nodes that communicate in a manner similar to neurons in a brain.
In the neural net, called Artbreeder, algorithms analyzed about 800 busts to model more realistic facial shapes, features, hair and skin, and to add vivid color. Voshart then fine-tuned Artbreeder’s models using Photoshop, adding details gleaned from coins, artworks and written descriptions of the emperors from historical texts, to make the portraits really come to life.