We are doing this AMA from an exhibition of the art of Roman Lipski in Berlin. Roman is known for using AI as a muse for his art, helping him to transition from being a classical painter to a modern artist. More recently he has been looking into using quantum computing as another inspirational tool.

Here a blog about the exhibition and some tweets with pictures from it: tweet 1, tweet 2.

Specifically, Roman has been using the Quantum Blur method developed at IBM Quantum. This was created as a first step towards using quantum computers for tasks in procedural generation. It was original conceived of by researcher and serial-AMAer Dr James Wootton. Since then, it’s been made into something properly usable by software developer Marcel Pfaffhauser.

We at IBM are still working developing new tools for procedural generation. One current direction is looking at quantum natural language processing with intern Amin Karamlou.

Roman, James, Marcel and Amin will all be answering questions about art and/or quantum computers from nowish until they stop.

Edit: Answers are now slow as the exhibition has kicked off again.

Edit 2: I'll take a look at new questions in the morning. But otherwise, that's about it. Thanks for the questions!


Comments: 83 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

LoyLuupi25 karma

How can the AI create art if it does not feel pain?

qiskit30 karma

The AI didn't create the art. The AI is just a tool. The artist creates the art.


LoyLuupi13 karma

But so much of the promotional language around your exhibition anthropomorphizes the AI, calling it your muse, describing your process as a dialogue between man and machine, that it is inspiring for you to engage with the network as though it were a human partner in your art. But you say that it is actually only a tool and you only use the AI?

qiskit16 karma

I spoke to Roman about your question. He seems to want to distance himself from the idea that the AI is creative. Instead it is providing perspective's on his work that allows him to question it in new ways. So the dialogue is essentially with himself, and the AI is a framing device.


LoyLuupi5 karma

Thanks for your responses and good luck with the project!

qiskit4 karma

Your welcome, and thank you for asking!

stringjetg619 karma

So is this like fractals?

qiskit26 karma

The method used us basically based on taking certain reflections of an image and overlaying them, but in a way that allows the different layers to interfere through quantum mechanical effects.

I guess it might be possible to create fractals in this way. Though I can't say I've really thought about it. But I'm thinking about it now!


dkonerding22 karma

Is there anything in this that would actually require a quantum computer, rather than working better on a conventional computer on the artist's desktop? I really struggle (as a scientist and appreciator of art) to see why this would be even remotely interesting. Sorry, I just see so much quantum woo in my time that i struggle to find anything of value.

qiskit12 karma

In this method: no. It was made to be easy to run on simulators. But the way the images are processed is done by choosing quantum gates. So it is a way to give complete beginners a taste of what it is to make a quantum computer. That was the original intention: more about outreach and something for people to play around with in hackathons rather than serious use cases. But it's been a great proof of this proof-of-principle method that Roman has actually found it useful!

For more sophisticated methods, I refer you to my answer on proc gen, and on how I see it evolving.


TextileWasp14 karma

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

qiskit15 karma

Androids would be great at counting all forms of sheep.


Neospector6 karma

How does procedural generation from quantum computers stack up to procedural generation in classical computers? Is there any particular benefit either method has that the other doesn't?

By the way thanks for the link to the quantum blur software, I'm excited to try it out.

qiskit2 karma

Procedural generation tries to make content that are as sophisticated as possible, and as different as possible on every run, and all to satisfy certain constraints on what the content is supposed to be and do. That can naturally lead to certain optimization problems and/or constraint satisfiability problems that are hard to solve with classical computers. Currently, people are very good at finding workarounds for this, but quantum computers will bring new methods that mean they don't have to.

Thats all in the long-term though, when quantum computers reach their full potential. Currently everything is in development, and we are working out how we can be helpful as the technology progresses. The Quantum Blur method was created as a relatively simple proof-of-principle that we can do useful things even with current quantum resources.


Pinkylindel5 karma

Hello there,

This is very interesting work! Thank you for the ama. I am wondering how using the quantum computational tools 'feels' different than working with ML powered /neural nets tools for making art. How does it change the process of artwork production? And finally, What did quantum tools made possible for your artwork/thinking that other computational/traditional tools would not allow? Thank you!!

qiskit2 karma

In discussing this with Roman, he like's the degree of control he has with the process of using Quantum Blur, which he didn't have in his AI work. (though I talked to AI people at the exhibition who know how to give him more control in his AI muse too, so this is not unique to Quantum Blur.

As for the uniqueness, he is very inspired by the way that the quantum interference effects alter the images and the insights this gives him. But I've not managed to pin down what he likes well enough to be able to quantify it and test how much it depends on the quantum features.


ethicsg4 karma

My friend Eric Wert is a realist painter who's work was interpreted by Google's image recognition system. The results are in some way a bit nightmarish but certainly interesting. How is a neutral network different than a quantum computer with this kind of manipulation? Is your process iterative or a single pass? What does it do to already highly realistic work?

qiskit3 karma

I (James) asked Roman about this and he said that the examples you link to seem to be based on big data, where the algorithm is trained on material that is not the artists work. When Roman used AI he preferred to train it only on his own work, so that the results it produced came from his own material and style.

He also mentioned that, in his work with AI, the process would give him an output but he did not have much control over what that output would be. Working with Quantum Blur is more like an artistic tool, where he has a lot of input over the entire process. Though in both cases, the effect creates interesting suprises.

-- Roman and James

qiskit3 karma

The effect is created by encoding an image as a superposition state in a quantum computer (or a simulation thereof) and then making changes of that superposition to induce interference effects. The result is that any features in one part of the image will start to effect other parts. Usually in quite unexpected ways.

So I think it differs from something like neural networks in that it doesn't try to 'understand' the image. It just puts it in the form of a quantum state and makes it evolve in quantum ways.

With highly realistic work it will make it less realistic, or at least look like it is being viewed through some kind of filter.

Usually the effect is applied on a single pass. But there are lots of choices to be made in how an image is put in to the process and what is done with it when it comes out (since the process really just acts on greyscale images), and there are different parameters to choose when applying it. So it'll take might many goes to figure out what it is you want to do.


Edit: Forgot to answer a part.

ethicsg3 karma

Is it a per pixel effect, regional or the entire painting? Does that red dot become a super position or the entire painting?

qiskit2 karma

It could be applied on regions, but typically we do the entire image. A single dot would indeed spread to the entire image.

anonymousrussb3 karma

You going to make NFTs out of this?

qiskit2 karma

No-one involved currently has plans for NFTs.


The_Magic_Bean3 karma

How much faster is using an actual quantum computer vs simulating one on a classical computer I terms of generating the pictures?

qiskit2 karma

In general it can take an exponential amount of time to classically simulate the exact steps of a quantum computation. However, that's not to say that there is no classical algorithm that achieves the same thing as quantum blur.

Let me try to elaborate a bit. With quantum blur the idea is to encode images as a quantum state, and then use weird quantum phenomenon such as superposition and interference to manipulate the images into new ones. These weird phenomenon don't really have classical analogues so we could say that the algorithm is quantum inspired.

Even though a step-by-step simulation of the quantum blur process would take exponential time, there might still be a different classical algorithm that achieves the same manipulation by different techniques.

-- Amin

lightninggninthgil3 karma

Should traditional artists be terrified of stuff like this?

It's a bit hard not to be. There's an entire IG / company that produces ai art prints

qiskit1 karma

I'll refer back to Roman's answer to a previous question here: "The AI didn't create the art. The AI is just a tool. The artist creates the art."

-- Amin

josenros2 karma

Have you considered using IonQ's quantum cloud computing service?

Their trapped ion approach is faster and more fault tolerant than superconducting and topographical approaches.


qiskit2 karma

Trapped ions are creating impressive results. There was also a great work from AQT out this week. At IBM Research in Zurich we are also looking at developing spin qubits as part of the NCCR Spin. I think there's a of interesting work scientific still to be done in how to actually build quantum computers.

But if it does turn out that IonQ are the ones who've got it on hardware, hopefully they'll realize that we at IBM's are the ones to partner with for cloud services and software!


chuckitoutorelse2 karma

Hi, I lost my keys last week, you know where they are by any chance? Thanks a thousand.

qiskit1 karma


I am sorry, but we do not know, but best of luck to you finding them though!.

-- Marcel

NeuronBlob2 karma

What does your inputs and outputs to a "Quantum" system look like ? When I think of terrain generation there is usually a tensor that represents the coordinates of a map and a noise generator uses this tensor as an input to generate a new one. How does the generation differ from this ? Also how fast can you generate ? Can it be made real-time ? What do you use to render the final result ?

Its fascinating!

qiskit2 karma

Hi (Marcel here)

So what we do is to take an image (in this case grayscale, but can also be done with several color channels), and encode this as a quantum circuit. Each pixel stands for a specific outcome of the quantum circuit, and the brightness is interpreted as the probability for that outcome.

For the terrain generation we use the output of the blur as a height-map. (From which either with a "default terrain" the landscape is generated, or also other methods to generate a landscape (like voxels) can be used)).

So the method to generate a terrain is pretty standard, but we use quantum blur to generate interesting/unique terrains.

I just ran a test on my laptop it took me 24 seconds to generate a blurred image from a color 2048 x 2048 pixel image.

It can be done faster (more powerful computer and with compiled code not in the Editor).

With smaller images it is a lot faster (less than 2 seconds with a color 512x512 source image).

If you use just grayscale (which is enough for terrain generation) the method is 3 times faster.

To speed it up more is at some point quite hard, since we need a quantum simulator (we use the C# implementation of our microqiskit simulator) for this process, and simulating many qubits just takes a long time. (It scales exponentially).

The tool we created for the artist was made with Unity 3D (the game engine), and is used inside the Unity Editor.

I hope this helps.

-- Marcel

Hobothug1 karma

Would this be infinitly slower on a normal computer? What is the basis for comparison?

qiskit1 karma

Sorry for the late reply:

This was done on a normal computer, with a quantum simulator (developed by us). This technique cannot be done in any way without a quantum simulator (or a quantum computer).

Quantum Simulators can simulate quantum computers with a low number of qubits (here 20), but since the computational complexity of the simulation scales exponentially with the number of qubits, for more than 50 qubits, even a super computer will not really be able to handle it.

The basis of comparison here is really just "how fast" this technique runs on a simulator.

In some of the other answers, there is some more info if you are interested. -- Marcel

zackmophobes2 karma

I would love to see a quantum Knight! On a valiant steed! Can it get that realistic?

qiskit1 karma

I'm not sure what a realistic quantum knight would look like, but I like the way you think!


Lyralou2 karma

What kind of future uses do you see for this? How do you see this evolving?

qiskit4 karma

I plan to keep coming up with new methods that track with the progression of the technology. This method was designed for the bare minimum, of such small quantum programs that they are easy to simulate on normal computers. I've also developed a method aimed at devices with 10s of qubits, which are very challenging to simulate. Next year we'll be looking into what to do with things like our new 127 qubit Eagle processors. And my intention is to do it as an open science project, which anyone can be involved in, streamed on my twitch.

SpookySP2 karma

What was your most unexpected result?

qiskit3 karma

I (Marcel) can just speak for myself, but one thing which I found really unexpected that you find so many people who are interested in a scientific poster, at an art exhibition. (We had additional to the artworks, also a scientific poster, and we were asked a lot of questions).

-- Marcel

W0otang2 karma

How flexible is quantum computing? Like, can it be used for day to day computing or only very specific algorithms?

qiskit1 karma

Definitely specific tasks. We imagine that they'll exist on the cloud, and they'll get called on to do the specific tasks they are needed for. You won't need to find a place for one under your desk!


forkinthemud2 karma

With how amazing the technology is, have you had any shortcomings or troubles with translating science into a creative form?

qiskit2 karma

One big issue is that people don't understand how conventional computers work. So you can't assume a background knowledge of even binary: People know bits exist, but that don't know what they are. This means I always need to start with a bit of non-quantum background before diving into how we encode images using quantum bits.


QueasyTailor58162 karma

How do you see this application of artificial intelligence improving/negatively affecting the human race?

qiskit1 karma

This is an application of quantum computing (a form of a quantum image processing effect) and is not using any form of Artificial Intelligence at all.

-- Marcel

booterror1232 karma


For Roman, do you have any kind of scientific background that started you off on this path ? Are you fascinated by the algorithms enough to study them, or are they more of a tool?

And the opposite question to James, Marcel and Amin, have you done a collaborative art project before for example?

Thanks for the AMA.

qiskit1 karma


Before working at IBM Research I (Marcel) worked as a Unity Developer specialized in AR, VR and Games for customers. In that time I worked with several computer graphic artists and we also did several projects with museums, so I had some prior experience in this regard.

-- Marcel

[deleted]1 karma


BTCbob2 karma

Do you know what a quantum computer is? If so, why are you incorrectly calling what you are doing quantum computing when it is clearly just classical computing? Do you find that throwing in the word quantum gets you more attention that focusing on the actual merits of your art?

qiskit1 karma

This was designed so that it can run on the devices that we put on the cloud for the public to use. Since they are small, they are easy to simulate. But the method is designed to run on QCs, and is based on manipulating quantum states through quantum gates. So it is an example of the principles of quantum software, even if not quantum hardware.

Other methods we are working on, both existing and future, are targeted at bigger and less easily simulable devices.