Take a Trippy Journey in This Machine-Generated Video

YouTube // Damien Henry
YouTube // Damien Henry

Coder Damien Henry created a 56-minute film based on one starting image and a machine learning algorithm. He trained the machine using video shot from the window of a moving train. Then he handed off that first frame and had the algorithm generate what it thought might be a "next" frame. That process repeated serially for the entire film, resulting in this beautiful, abstract train ride:

The soundtrack is Steve Reich's classic "Music for 18 Musicians," and the pairing helps create a mesmerizing atmosphere. Watching the video, you see smears of light and dark eventually form into landscapes (drawing on the algorithm's knowledge of landscapes), but those landscapes are often messy and surreal, looking like blobs in a lava lamp or perhaps a robot's low-fi idea of what a landscape might look like. Because the film includes zero editing, it is purely a product of that first frame and the machine's training. It's beautiful.

In the YouTube description, Henry wrote (in part):

The results are low resolution, blurry, and not realistic most of the time. But it resonates with the feeling I have when I travel in a train. It means that the algorithm learned the patterns needed to create this feeling. Unlike classical computer generated content, these patterns are not chosen or written by a software engineer.

In this video, nobody made explicit that the foreground should move faster than the background: thanks to Machine Learning, the algorithm figured that itself. The algorithm can find patterns that a software engineer may haven’t noticed, and is able to reproduce them in a way that would be difficult or impossible to code.

He also notes that the algorithm learns during the video's creation, which accounts for the increase in realism as the video goes on. He notes that the algorithm's learning system is updated every 20 seconds.

For a bit more from Henry on the project, check out his Twitter feed.

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The Truth Behind Italy's Abandoned 'Ghost Mansion'

YouTube/Atlas Obscura
YouTube/Atlas Obscura

The forests east of Lake Como, Italy, are home to a foreboding ruin. Some call it the Casa Delle Streghe (House of Witches), or the Red House, after the patches of rust-colored paint that still coat parts of the exterior. Its most common nickname, however, is the Ghost Mansion.

Since its construction in the 1850s, the mansion—officially known as the Villa De Vecchi—has reportedly been the site of a string of tragedies, including the murder of the family of the Italian count who built it, as well as the count's suicide. It's also said that everyone's favorite occultist, Aleister Crowley, visited in the 1920s, leading to a succession of satanic rituals and orgies. By the 1960s, the mansion was abandoned, and since then both nature and vandals have helped the house fall into dangerous decay. The only permanent residents are said to be a small army of ghosts, who especially love to play the mansion's piano at night—even though it's long since been smashed to bits.

The intrepid explorers of Atlas Obscura recently visited the mansion and interviewed Giuseppe Negri, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were gardeners there. See what he thinks of the legends, and the reality behind the mansion, in the video below.