Okay, now there's one thing you have to keep in mind. These folks are trying to do something fabulously difficult: write a computer program that can develop a sense of aesthetic judgment. That's so hard that humans can't even do it right or consistently. Read any sample of back columns on TOP and see how often there's unanimity on the aesthetic merit of a particular photograph, let alone any kind of cogent or coherent explanation of why it has merit. We humans don't agree and we're largely inarticulate on the subject. We certainly can't expect much from a machine.
Still, it's hard not to be amused by its efforts, the same way we're amused by inept computer language translation. That's not unrighteous, so long as we stifle the snarkiness. And not take it too seriously.
The program's called ACQUINE, short for "Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine."
Go here and you can enter URLs for (or upload) your photos. How could I resist? I picked a sampling from my website of my favorites (and my audience's, I must emphasize).
For the sake of calibration, there's a reference photo of the Macbeth chart from my website. ACQUINE rated it a 10 on a scale of 100, 50 being "a typical average-quality professional photograph" according to the programmers. Okay, so far so good.
Next I handed it my photograph of Castle Eileen Donan, and that garnered an amazing 98.5! "Wow, that computer has excellent taste!" I thought objectively.
So I fed it a bunch more stuff, and while one picture garnered a mere 34 (obviously a computer error), the average score for the rest was over 80. Insert artist smugness here.
It bothered me to be using URLs for photos directly from my website. As I present them, they're all encumbered with dark gray "frames," grayscales, and title information. That has to be detracting (aesthetically) from the photograph. I figured the smart and sensible thing to do would be to strip off that extraneous matter and present ACQUINE with the photographs in a clean form.
So I did—and my scores plummeted! A few stayed respectable; the Castle photo only declined to 86.5. But two thirds of the photos dropped into the teens and the one below came back with an appalling 6.2.
In other words, ACQUINE thought it was lousy even in comparison to a Macbeth chart!
I guess it's like they say: It's all in the presentation.
For those who like to wallow in data here are the URL's to the photos I tested, along with the scores in their presentation form and the scores after I stripped off the "frames."
"Scotland 1," with frame: 82.3; "bare": 15.9
"Scotland 2," with frame: 67.1; "bare": 6.2
"Scotland 14," with frame: 56.5; "bare": 14
"Scotland 15," with frame: 98.5; "bare": 86.5
"Scotland 16," with frame: 71.1; "bare": 15.2
"Scotland 17," with frame: 34; "bare": 12.3
"VAB Bay," with frame: 87.8; "bare": 58.1
"Rose," with frame: 91.6; "bare": 15.1
"Rushes," with frame: 94.1; "bare": 71.5
Featured Comment by Chuck Kimmerle: "That software's hard to please. After my third photo evaluation, it suggested I sell my camera and take up plumbing."
Featured Comment by Adam McAnaney: "For the record, the above picture of The Robot rated a 64.7."