Pope Francis’ (Fake) Puffer Coat Was Generated By AI

A photo of Pope Francis went viral over the weekend when an image of him stepping out in public in a stylish, puffer-coat version of white papal wear made its way around the internet, inspiring jokes for some and complete shock for others.

The image was fake.

According to Insider, the image was created with the “generative AI” program Midjourney, a platform where you can enter text and receive often highly detailed, sometimes uber-realistic images in return.

In a Reddit thread, r/midjourney, people submit images that were created using the program, from a Rembrandt with cellphones to Severus Snape from the Harry Potter universe playing at the 1969 music festival Woodstock.

On Friday, a user posted a series of photos of Pope Francis in a white jacket, one of which went viral on Twitter. The image even fooled Chrissy Teigen.

“It went so viral, not just because it was funny to some people, but because most people couldn’t tell it was fake,” Sinéad Bovell, founder of media and technology company WAYE told CNN.

She suggested that social media platforms might have features in the future that would mark these types of images as AI-generated.

One way to tell that the image is AI-generated, at least in this case, is that the hands look misshapen, as the program struggles to create hands, per BuzzFeed News.

Related: Getty Images Has Started Legal Proceedings Against an AI Generative Art Company For Copyright Infringement

It is possible these photos are only going to get more popular as other generative AI programs that work similarly, such as DALL-E, from the same company behind ChatGPT, OpenAI, hit the mainstream.

Lensa AI was another program that used generative AI to iterate on inputted images that found itself in the headlines in late 2022. Users were seemingly wowed by the realistic, digital portraits that depicted users as woodland fairies or in space.

Related: What is Lensa AI? And Does it Pose Privacy and Ethical Concerns?

Still, there could be implications beyond what the Pope’s lifestyle brand would be called. We’re hovering on the edge of a world where “we can’t distinguish what’s real and what’s not,” Bovell told CNN.

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