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DIGIMENTORS TECH TIP | AI & Fashion: Get In Before You’re Left Out

DIGIMENTORS TECH TIP | Saramonic Blink Me Wireless Microphones: Here’s Looking at Me

Excerpted from the March 7, 2024 edition of Sree's Sunday Note.

If you’ve been waiting for the day when artificial intelligence affects the way you live or work, guess what: That day passed a long time ago. But AI may soon affect the way you look as it expands into a new area: fashion.

Instead of spending hours at a sketchpad or computer brainstorming ideas, what if you could generate the next big thing in fashion by plugging words or “prompts” into a generative AI platform like ChatGPT and letting it do the work? That’s already happening.

But AI comes with a lot of open questions. Whose photos, sketches, ideas and concepts went into the databases generating these images? Who owns the copyrights? Are people of color reasonably represented among those creating these AI databases or have they been left behind?

At a recent New York panel of AI experts titled “The Future in Black Presents: Tech Couture,” the key messages were simple: Creative Black fashion designers will be left behind if they don’t learn to use AI tools now, but the good news is that it’s not too late: AI-powered fashion designing is still in its infancy.

“We’re going to get erased if we don’t get our voices in,” said Joy Fennell, founder of The Future in Black. “You have to train your own AI model to create output that’s all yours.”

Currently Blacks have little representation at some of the major companies building tomorrow’s AI. According to Statista, Blacks held only 4.1 per cent of tech jobs at Google in 2023 and according to Microsoft’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Report for 2023, Blacks accounted for 6.7 per cent of its workforce.

Opé, an AI fashion designer and stylist, said that by understanding AI engines, she can generate images that reflect her own tastes, not some programmer’s. “I could make the images [of people] look like what I wanted them to look like and clothes I wanted them to wear,” she said.

So how easy is it to generate a classy image? In a demonstration, digital creator Tristan King entered the words “pearl,” “afro,” “love,” and “business man” into the Lexica Art generative AI Android app and within moments it came back with glamourous images that could easily have graced a book cover or art poster.

With all this computer-generated output, is there still room for human-powered creativity? The answer is yes, said Leighton McDonald, an experience designer and producer, if you become expert at tailoring your prompts for the AI platform you’re using.

So, is it too late for minorities to have their voices heard in the development of AI? The short answer from the panelists was “no.”

“The time to get in is now. Grow while it’s still low water,” said Opé. “Learn what you’re drawn to and take advantage of the tech.” My tech tips appear regularly in Sree's Sunday Note.

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