When I’ve generated candy heart messages before, they’ve been text only - definitely some assembly required. But methods of generating custom images from descriptions are getting better all the time. Could I use modern machine learning to generate new candy hearts?

The answer is no.

A dark background with a vaguely circular candy. It looks very lumpy with embossed lettering. If you knew it was supposed to say "Be Mine" you could recognize it, but none of the letters are quite right.

For the image above, I gave the prompt “A candy heart that says Be Mine” to a program I’ve used to make AI-generated images before. Ryan Murdock’s Big Sleep program uses OpenAI’s CLIP algorithm to judge how well one of BigGAN’s generated images matches my caption, and to try to direct the generated BigGAN images toward a closer match. This candy heart, only roughly heart-shaped and weirdly fleshy, is the best match it found.

Here’s its attempt at “a candy heart that says Kiss Me”.

A red lumpy candy partially wrapped in cellophane. There's black lettering on it, but it's illegible. More than anything it looks like it says "this test". Very ominous overall.

It doesn’t seem to necessarily do better if the text I ask for is more likely on a candy heart.

Here’s “A candy heart that says HOLE.”

It's heartshaped in the sense that it has a butt-like cleft on top. A weird yellow stain exudes from the candy. It says "Hole" or maybe "Mole"

Disturbingly legible.

I had wondered if I could get CLIP + BigGAN to generate brand-new candy heart messages, but that was even less effective. Here’s “A candy heart with a message”, whose message is apparently desperately crammed onto every millimeter of the candy, so deeply that the sugar begins to split.

A pink candy on a leafy green background. There are several lines of closely-spaced illegible white text on the candy.

The British version, “a conversation heart,” fared no better, but is on a bird for some reason so that’s nice.

The bird might be some sort of shorebird? The candy is an embossed circle on its breast, embossed with three lines of illegible text.

I wondered if specifying a shorter message might help it produce something more legible.

Here’s “A candy heart with a two word message.” I don’t know what this rune summons, but it probably has lots of legs.

The candy looks sugar-frosted and almost heart-shaped. Printed on the candy is a single black letter that looks like an f with a fishhook top.

“A message spelled in three candy hearts” receives only partial credit, depending on whether you think these adequately convey the message “RUN”.

Three pink lumpy shapes outlined in red on a sugary pink background. They might be faces or tiny lumps of gore - hard to tell.

I wondered about some recurring textures I was seeing on CLIP + BigGAN’s candy hearts. Was it a coincidence that many of the “candy hearts” looked weirdly lumpy and fatty and blood-colored? I asked it to find an optimum picture for “a heart”, and this is what it produced.

A red feathered organic background with black sooty lumps surrounding two red shapes that maybe resemble human organs? Definitely looks very organic.

And here’s what it generated when I asked for “a candy”.

Some kind of pink and green striped hard candy nestled in cellophane

These look so much like its “a candy heart that says Kiss Me” that I wonder if, in an attempt to get extra credit, the AI is searching for images that closely match not only “candy heart” but also “candy” and “heart” in as many simultaneous senses of these words as it can. It generated not only a candy heart, but a cellophane-wrapped heart.

This seems even clearer in its response to “A candy heart that says Stank Love.”

It looks like nothing more than a tightly cellophane wrapped human heart with the word Stannk standing out on it in veins.

Accuracy is only one route toward having CLIP agree that a particular image matches its caption. Sometimes it’s enough to combine the caption keyword. This seems to maybe work as a strategy on paint.wtf, a game where CLIP ranks your sketches. As of the time of writing, my drawing of “a goat that’s been turned into an oven” is ranked #1, ahead of a bunch of entries that are actual oven-goats. (My entry for “someone who knows how to fly”, a stick figure with big wings in the sky with butterflies and houseflies and a book, didn’t do nearly so well, so who knows.)

Draw a goat that's been turned into an oven. Global ranking: 1 out of 19 submissions. Sketch is of three goats standing on two ovens, a cookie sheet and a spatula nearby.

So what happens if I simply ask CLIP + BigGAN for “a candy heart”? Does it write a legible message? Or at least combine organs and cellophane wrappers in an interesting way? I regret to inform you that it does this:

It is a small brown candy on a furry pink background, looking very much like the butthole of a fluffy pink animal

I had fun combining candy hearts with a few other prompts (a candy heart from a robot, a candy heart for a giraffe, a candy heart that says LASERS) etc. To read a bonus post with some of these results, become an AI Weirdness supporter! Or become a free subscriber to get new AI Weirdness posts in your inbox.

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