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See The Past – Uncovering Photo History with DALL-E 2

Using the new outpainting feature in DALL-E 2, I took some of the most famous images of all time and expanded their borders
Updated October 17, 2022

Photos are often seen as windows into the past. By capturing a moment in time, a photo can immortalize people, places, and things long gone. For many people, this is what makes photography so special—the ability to capture a fleeting moment and keep it forever. But what is it about a photograph that allows us to do this?

While the people or objects in a photo may change or disappear over time, the photograph itself remains unchanged. This is what allows us to look back at old photos and revisit those moments long gone. Not only is photography an art form, but it is also a way to preserve history.

But what about those historical photos? The photos we see glimpses of but lack additional context? The photos that have been lost to time? Well unfortunately for us, these artists are long gone. We'll never know the stories behind those old artworks.

Or will we?

Some of the most famous images of all time include the Moon landing, Starry Night, and construction workers on the RCA Building in Manhattan. As great and iconic as these are you must wonder what was going on beside them. There had to be more to them... right? Although we can't go back in time, I took a try using Outpainting in DALL-E 2, an AI text-to-image generator, to fill in outside gaps in these images and expand on what we see.

DALL-E 2 is able to take a text description of an image and generate a corresponding image. So, for example, if you input the description "a black and white photo of a man in a suit standing next to a woman in a dress", that's what you'll get!

Outpainting lets you add frames to an image like you're inserting puzzle pieces to the current picture. The AI works by imagining what would come next to the current scene. So, for example, if you're looking at a black and white photo of the moon landing, DALL-E 2 might imagine adding an American flag or a second Astronaut.

Outpainting on Historical Images with DALL-E 2

I wanted to take this a step further. Last week I used my personal photos to Outpaint on images. I wanted to do something similar with images that already existed, but with a more historical focus. So that's what I did. I took some of the most famous images of all time and used DALL-E 2 Outpainting to uncover the hidden details.

Of course, these aren't real photos, but they offer a glimpse into what could have been. It's amazing to see the world through DALL-E 2's eyes and to think about all of the possibilities that exist based on the images it was trained on. I wonder how the original photographers would feel about their works being expanded on in this way. Is it disrespectful of us to even try? Here's what DALL-E came up with:

Taking it a Step Further

So now we have our expanded images. The only issue is they don't have the same quality if zoomed in. This is where Gigapixel AI comes in. Gigapixel AI is an image upscaling tool that uses AI to enhance images. I used this tool to upscale the DALL-E 2 generated images and the results are pretty incredible.

We've been testing the trial version which includes watermarks, but even with the watermarks, you can see a significant difference in quality. Here's a side by side comparison of an image before and after using Gigapixel AI. The images on the left are the DALL-E 2 generated images and the images on the right are after being upscaled with Gigapixel AI. Click on them to view them individually and scroll in to see the detail.

So What's Next?

We're entering a future where AI can help us see both the past and future in a new light. With DALL-E 2, we can uncover hidden details and expand on what we already know. So the next time you're looking at a famous image, think about all of the things that you can't see. And then imagine what DALL-E 2 might be able to show you. We've seen fashion designed by AI which was able to predict some futuristic styles, so what about going back into the past?

It's really interesting because AI doesn't actually know what was going on when these pictures were taken, or how adults will dress 20 years from now, but I see this as art from a new perspective. I think we're just beginning to scratch the iceberg with what AI can do in terms of design, and I'm excited to see what's next!

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Written by Justin Gluska
Justin is the founder of Gold Penguin, a business technology blog that helps people start, grow, and scale their business using AI. The world is changing and he believes it's best to make use of the new technology that is starting to change the world. If it can help you make more money or save you time, he'll write about it!
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