How AI made the worlds ugliest Christmas sweater

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The Norwegian tech-company Computas used artificial intelligence to create the design for the worlds ugliest Christmas sweater. Their employees then knitted the somewhat strange sweater themselves. The idea was well received both by the employees and the press and caused positive attention before the Christmas holidays.

BACKGROUND

A few years back the “ugly Christmas sweater” trend introduced itself to Norway. Now, as a warm-up for the holidays, people compete on wearing the most humorous or silly sweaters with Christmas motives and colours.

GOAL

PR-operatørene set out to help Computas get deserved attention for their core competence areas, and to increase their over-all brand awareness.

IMPLEMENTATION

A development team from Computas started the project in October by gathering data. They collected thousands of pictures of Christmas sweaters from the internet, which they put through an AI system that identified and interpreted the different elements. The goal was to find the most common components and colours and then to use this as data material. The machine found that the most common elements was snowflakes or snowmen, while the most used colours was red, green and blue.

To proceed their work, the researchers needed to set up the machine as for how it was going to design the sweater. Since the computer didn’t know anything about Christmas beforehand, they had to teach the computer what Christmas may look like. The researchers did this with an interactive program called Google Quickdraw. On this program millions of people sketch drawings from over three hundred Christmas motives. With this knowledge the AI system could now draw new sketches of snowmen and snowflakes that looks man-made, but that has never been drawn before.

No Christmas sweater is complete without a good, jolly Christmas text on it. The AI system knows only what it can interpret from its data. Therefore, Computas fed the system with all the Norwegian Christmas songs lyrics they found online. When the whole system vocabulary is based solely on Christmas lyrics, the grammar and structure naturally turned out a bit strange. The outcome that the researchers ended up with, that now prides the sweater, is: “Every little Santa is coming coming coming Christmas eve”.

Not only is this a Norwegian developed AI that has figured out how to design, shape and colorize the worlds ugliest Christmas sweater. The employees of Computas also designed a knitting pattern with instructions so that they could make the actual sweater.

When the sweater was knitted and done, a film was produced that documented the whole process and thoughts behind the project and the story was given to selected key media.

RESULT

Both VG and NRK covered the story, in addition to a long list of tech and lifestyle media such as tek.no, Digi, Melk & Honning and HansPetter.info. Many of them also shared instructions for the knitting pattern so that their followers could make their own ugly Christmas sweater.

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