Home Opinion Marvel in the sky with diamonds, and a touch of artificial intelligence

Marvel in the sky with diamonds, and a touch of artificial intelligence


Marvel, my ginger cat, was delighted. She welcomed Virgin Australia’s announcement that domestic animals could accompany their owners and travel in the passenger cabin with an enthusiastic purr. She could not wait to climb aboard a Virgin 737. So when she heard that we were off to Tasmania a few weeks ago and travelling with Virgin, it was a no-brainer for her. Here she is comfortably seated in her business class seat and CATching up on the news.

Sitting pretty

I did suggest that she would find reading a tablet more convenient, but she rejected this suggestion outright, saying her encounters with tablets always ended with her spitting them out immediately.

Most of the above story is, of course, pure fiction. While it is true that Virgin has recently announced that domestic pets will be allowed to travel in the passenger cabins of its flights, Marvel did not fly to Tasmania, or anywhere else, for that matter.

The image was, in fact, catchured using Firefly AI software, which has recently been released as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud software suite. Another interesting freebie for subscribers.

Using Firefly could not be easier. Just type in the details of the image you want to create in the dialogue box then click on generate and in a short time, Firefly offers four alternative versions of the image. For the above picture, I typed in “A ginger cat sitting on an aircraft reading a newspaper”.

Marvel spoof

The cat is not Marvel. It was sourced from one of the thousands of images of ginger cats stored on the internet.

My first try of Firefly generated the four images below from the instruction, “A ginger cat and a small black cat walking on a sidewalk on a busy Tokyo street in the rain”. All well and good, but the Marvel lookalike appears to be taking a summer stroll while her little black companion is soaked by the Tokyo rain and looks like it needs a good blow dry.

I cannot see Firefly being used as a tool for photographers, but I can see its potential use by illustrators, and aside from anything else, it is great fun to use. Have you tried it yet? Let us have your views in the comments section below.

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  1. A lovely story and how fortunate of Marvel to “find” you. Let’s hope Marvel stretches out those 9 lives to the limit.

    When we first moved to Yorkshire from Benin, my sister and I persuaded our parents that we really needed to adopt a kitten. “Toby” a ginger tabby was adopted and the gradual process began of the family adapting routines to fit Toby’s.

    He was not the brightest cat (or maybe he was) risking life and limb by sitting in the middle of the road through our village while one of us would have to rush out and rescue him. Maybe he reasoned that my father “The Reverend” offered him a few extra lives insurance due to the spiritual connection.

    Toby also thought it was fun to climb along a wall and up onto a roof of a building that connected to the house, but all too often realized too late that he could not turn around and retrace his steps. Muggins here would be summoned to lean out of a tiny window that would allow Toby to climb along my arm, shoulder, and back, while he leisurely made his way through the window to safety.

    Pets, and cats in particular, teach you patience. I’m sure the old saying of “Never work with animals or children” rings true. I suspect that if Andrew Lloyd Webber were to recreate “Cats” around Marvel’s musical life story, it would all be done with AI.

  2. Dear John, thanks for this article and the images. To be honest, I don’t know yet if this is rather hilarious or very frightening. At any rate, your take on the matter is refreshing and wise. I hope you can see and capture many „real“ (whatever that means) in the months and years to come! All the best, Jörg-Peter

  3. Inspired by your example, John, I tried Openart. The prompt was: “A pregnant orange and white cat is eating from a glass dish on a wood floor”. This was prompted in my mind by a photo I had taken in 2018 vacationing on one of the Greek islands.

    The AI-generated photo was excellent – except for one thing: the cat is eating an orange slice in the glass dish!

  4. Thanks for this excellent article, John. I Marvel reminds me of Ginger, our cat, who was killed by a stupid driver a few years ago. I think it’s frightening to think of what AI is already capable of despite some mishaps but also incredible at the same time.
    Enjoy your forthcoming trip to Europe.

  5. Glancing at the first paragraph and ‘photo’, you had me fooled 🙂 On reflection, I’m not a cat person, but that a cat could hold that pose for more than 1/100 of a second seems unlikely!

    There’s an interesting article in restofworld.org: How AI reduces the world to stereotypes. The study took simple prompts: a street in New Delhi; an American person, a Mexican person. They generated 100 images and examined them. Some results:

    ‘an American person’ — one child, five men, and 94 young attractive white women
    ‘a Mexican person’ — a man with a sombrero and mustachio
    ‘a street in New Delhi’ — a slum

    Back in the day when I did computer programming (punch cards, no less), we said ‘GIGO’ — garbage in, garbage out. Today, it’s ‘training set in, training set out’.

    As you say, this isn’t going to affect photography. But — some phones also use AI. Of course we all use algorithms; my DLux Typ 109 has serious barrel distortion, but you’d never know it from the RAWs, for which I’m grateful. AI is different: it decides what a good photo should look like, based on whatever data set it’s been trained on. Fortunately, you don’t have to turn that feature on, still:
    a slippery slope

    • The roll-out of Google’s AI image machine was a study in unstereotypes, to coin a term. Most images featured a non-white person, no matter the historical context.

      • So the AI is stereotyping. To my mind, that makes it unfit for serious use.

        D you rember a fe years back, Google got in hot water for search results on — if I reeber correctly — a group of teenagers.

  6. John,

    I enjoyed the article just because it featured cats. A man who loves cats cannot be all bad [:-)

    Surely you must know that as a female orange tabby, Marvel, if not a true marvel, is at least somewhat rare.

    • Martin , yes I am aware that only 25% of female orange tabby cats are female so Marvel is something of a rarity.
      I adopted Marvel from an animal shelter, She had been named Marvel by the shelter as she had been found in a drain in a terrible dirty state, thick with fleas and seriously undernourished.
      Her miraculous luck has continued with me as, like many ginger cats, she has a serious genetic heart condition and she suffered a major heart attack last September. The vet gave her 6 months to live at the most. and she is on a course of meds every day. It’s 8 months now and she’s doing really well but she will run out of lives one day and that will be very sad.


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