Do you dream of Asuna Yuuki? Do you long to escape to a fantasy world with a beautiful anime partner? If so there’s a new artificial intelligence system just for you — the “Waifu Vending Machine” can create a highly customized anime companion in minutes.
“Waifu” is a Japanese term for a fictional heartthrob in manga/anime/gaming culture. Many fans casually refer to their favourite female character in a game or anime as their Waifu, while some take it a step further, treating Waifu as an essential part of their lives. The term is increasingly widespread globally as Japanese otaku culture continues to deeply resonate among Millennials.
The AI-powered Waifu Vending Machine first randomly creates 16 fictional female characters from scratch. Users can choose one to proceed to the next step, or refresh the grid if none of the generated characters tickle their fancy.
Next, the model will tune the color palette for the chosen character.
The system will continue fine-tuning diverse details such as hair styles, clothing, facial features, pose, etc. to produce a unique representation from countless possible appearances.
Voila! Below is Synced’s custom cute Waifu. Users can download the generated images, share their creations on Twitter, and even purchase a printed pillow (US$90) or poster (US$25) emblazoned with their Waifu. The system can also apply a Japanese name to the character and link her to the user’s email address for further deployment options.
The team behind Waifu Vending Machine is the creative agency and games studio Sizigi Studios. While they have not unboxed the technical details of their model, team member Kevin Frans, an MIT undergrad previously recognized as the first high schooler to become an OpenAI research intern, wrote on Reddit that they used generative adversarial networks (GANs) to train the system.
The creation of GANs has spawned myriad image synthesis applications over the past years, and one of the popular research topics is anime generation. In February researcher Gwern Branwen developed a random Waifu generator called This Waifu Does Not Exist using NVIDIA’s StyleGAN neural networks.
Frans says a key challenge was “curating a dataset of clean images and making sure nothing weird shows up.” The team used a Branwen dataset as their primary training corpus then decoupled features such as pose from color, etc., which Frans says involved “some tricks in manipulating latent vectors to not end up in a bad space.”
Sizigi Studios brought their Waifu Vending Machine to the Los Angeles Anime Convention earlier this month, where it quickly became a center of attention. Sketch artists often work at anime conventions, drawing commissioned portraits for otaku attendees. It is however challenging for an artist to create a new character based on descriptions alone. Waifu Vending Machine on the other hand provides immediate visual feedback and only needs five minutes to generate a custom Waifu.
The project has made waves in the otaku and machine learning communities. It is also trending on social media — where many are encouraging Sizigi Studios to come up with a similar generator for “husbando,” the male equivalent of Waifu. Branwen commented on Reddit that generating husbandos is surprisingly difficult due to a dearth of fictional male face data.
Google AI Researcher David Ha tweeted “We need more gender diversity in anime-ML projects. The anime dataset bias issue should be a challenge, rather than an excuse.”
Click here to access the Waifu Vending Machine and create your own Waifu.
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen