Designer Creates Lifelike Images of Roman Emperors with Machine Learning

Daniel Voshart used his expertise to bring 54 Roman emperors back to life.
Fabienne Lang
Emperors Nero (left) and Thrax (right)1, 2, 3

It's not every day that you face a Roman emperor, but now you can. Sort of. 

Designer, Daniel Voshart, has created photorealistic images of 54 Roman emperors thanks to machine learning tools, and his artistic eye. Voshart based the faces on traditional stone bust images. 

Now that's a way to pass time during the lockdown, which, as it stands, is exactly why Voshart took on the fun project, as he stated in his blog.


Bringing art to life

Cinematographer and virtual reality designer, Voshart, made use of machine learning, Photoshop, a neural network, his artistic flair, and research to create these stunning life-like images. 

Voshart used the neural network, Artbreeder, which then analyzed roughly 800 busts to create realistic face shapes, features, hair, and skin, and then added color, per Live Science's report. 

Voshart then jumped back in and worked on the images Artbreeder created using Photoshop. In order to give the emperors a touch of truth, Voshart read descriptions, looked at art, coins, and busts to make them look as real as possible. 

As he told the Verge, "I would do work in Photoshop, load it into ArtBreeder, tweak it, bring it back into Photoshop, then rework it. That resulted in the best photorealistic quality, and avoided falling down the path into the uncanny valley."

Different emperors have different skin tones in Voshart's images, which he explained can be altered and are based on "educated guesses based on birthplace and U.V. sun exposure maps," per an email from Voshart to us.

Tracking down all the art and texts for his project took Voshart around two months, and each portrait took him approximately 15 to 16 hours to create, he told Live Science.

The images are an incredible representation of what a human mind and AI can create together. Take a look at all 54 ancient emperors and what they may have really looked like: 

Designer Creates Lifelike Images of Roman Emperors with Machine Learning
Voshart's 54 Roman emperors. Source: Daniel Voshart
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