Bengal tigers, red pandas and mountain gorillas are among the world’s best-known endangered species, but tens of thousands more – like the Karpathos frog, Perote deer mouse or giant Mekong catfish – are largely unknown.
Generally perceived as lacking in star quality, these species now roam on massive billboards in one of the busiest destinations in the world. An AI-powered initiative is spotlighting lesser-known endangered creatures on Times Square billboards this month, nightly within minutes before midnight on nearly 100 screens.
The project, called Existing in critical condition, uses AI to illustrate the limited public data available on critically endangered flora and fauna. This is the first deep learning art exhibit in the decade-long history of the Times Square Arts program.
“A neural network can only create images based on what it sees in training data, and there is very little information online about some of these critically endangered species,” said artist Sofia Crespo, who created the artwork with support from Meta Open Arts, using NVIDIA. GPU for AI training and inference. “This project is ultimately about representation – for us to recognize that we are biased towards certain species over others.”
These representational biases have implications for efforts and funding to save different species. Research has shown that a small subset of endangered species that are considered charismatic, cute, or marketable receive more funding than they need, while most others receive little or none. Support.
When threatened species of any size, such as insects, fungi or plants, are left without conservation resources, they are more vulnerable to extinction, contributing to severe biodiversity loss that renders ecosystems and less resilient food webs.
Intentionally Imperfect Portraits
The AI model, created by Crespo and collaborator Feileacan McCormick, was trained on a matched dataset of nearly 3 million nature images and text describing about 10,000 species. But that still wasn’t enough to create true-to-life portraits of less popular endangered species.
So the deep learning model, a generative adversarial network, does the best it can, guessing the characteristics of a given endangered species based on related species. Due to limited source data, many AI-generated creatures have a different body color or shape than their real-life counterparts — and that’s the point.
“Part of the project relied on open source data that is currently available,” Crespo said. “If that’s all the data we have and species go extinct, what kind of knowledge and imagination do we have about the world that was lost?”
Existing in critical condition features more than 30 species, including amphibians, birds, fish, flowering plants, fungi, and insects. After providing species names to the generative AI model, Crespo animated and processed the synthetic images to create the final moving portraits.
The AI model behind this project was trained using a cluster of NVIDIA Tensor Core GPUs. Crespo used a desktop NVIDIA RTX A6000 GPU for what she called “lightning-fast” inference.
AI in the public square
Existing in critical conditionThe Times Square display premiered on May 1 and will run nightly through the end of the month.
The three-minute display presents the more than 30 specimens in a random arrangement that changes approximately every 30 seconds. Crespo said using the NVIDIA RTX A6000 GPU was key to generating the high-resolution images needed to cover dozens of digital billboards.
Crespo and McCormick, who run a studio focused on ecology and AI, also enhanced the art exhibit with an AI-generated soundtrack trained on a diverse range of animal sounds.
“The idea is to show diversity with many creatures and overwhelm the audience with creatures that are very different from each other,” Crespo said.
The project began as an Instagram exhibit, with the aim of adding depiction of critically endangered species to conversations on social media. In Times Square, the work will reach an audience of hundreds of thousands more.
“Crespo’s work brings the natural world right to the center of the very urban environment at odds with these endangered species, and nods to the human changes that will be necessary to save them,” reads the Times Square post. Arts.
Crespo and McCormick presented their work at NVIDIA GTC, most recently an AI-generated coral reef fragment titled Under the neural waves.
Learn more about AI artwork by Crespo and McCormick in the NVIDIA AI Art Gallery, and discover Existing in critical condition in Times Square until May 31.
Times Square images courtesy of Times Square Arts, photographed by Michael Hull. Artwork by Sofia Crespo.