AI-generated art is now firmly in the mainstream, mostly thanks to numerous memes making fun of the often silly results. There are a handful of different deep learning AI art generators, but most work in a similar way: the user types in a phrase, then the AI searches that phrase and combines the results in a way that mimics the art it was trained on. Sometimes that works quite well and other times it is a disaster — but it is almost always interesting. To see a new piece of AI-generated art every day, Jess Farber built Pycasso.
Pycasso is a small desktop digital photo frame, similar to the kind you bought your dad in 2004 to display family vacation photos. Except instead of an LCD panel, Pycasso contains an E Ink screen. That keeps power consumption extremely low, as E Ink displays only require power when they refresh the content of screen. Most E Ink screens only display black and white or grayscale images, but this model can show seven colors. It has a very slow refresh rate (35 seconds for a full refresh), but that isn’t a big deal when it only changes once a day.
And in contrast to your dad’s dusty old digital photo frame, Pycasso updates with a completely new and original piece of art every day. It gets that artwork from DALLE and/or Stable Diffusion, which are two popular deep learning models. Farber’s software creates pseudo-random prompts by selecting from words that follow a structure that usually produces good results. AI art generators can be somewhat finicky, so there are options to use a simplified prompt structure or one that creates more variety at the expense of reliability.
On the hardware side, Pycasso is quite simple and easy to assemble. It contains a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B single-board computer, a Waveshare 5.65” seven-color ePaper display module with a 600x448 resolution, a PiJuice battery HAT, and a picture frame. Single-board computers are in short supply and hard to find right now, but at normal prices this would cost less than $200 USD to build. Depending on the AI art generator you use and the frequency at which you update Pycasso, you might also need to buy credits for the service. Farber provided his code and thorough setup instructions to get you going.