NEW YORK CITY - "Now the river runs above the moon," spoke an wizened robotic voice as I floated through the psychedelic ether while using Google's Deep Dream VR program. The latest version of Google's image-interpreting AI can now "dream" using the company's neural networks -- often in wild, startling ways.
My demo during the TFI Interactive showcase at the Tribeca Film Festival was both enlightening and a bit disturbing. Although the program is still in beta, the Google rep I spoke with confirmed that Google Cardboard fans would soon be able to take their own journeys through the virtual dreamscape.
As I started my demo, colors undulated around me quickly, forming and dissolving shapes as fast as I could make them out. The colorful cavalcade continued for a few seconds more before a man suddenly took form out of the madness. He was a construction worker seated in a cable car being transported upward. A pensive look crossed his face as the voice narrating this digital fevered dream spouted lines that would feel right at home in a Jefferson Airplane lyric.
As I spun around in my chair, the scene became more and more curious as the dream world filled with rainbow-colored eyes. The man disappeared and I was once again floating in a multicolored cloud. The next time I reappeared in the "real world" I was still in the cable car with the construction worker, but this time I was face to face with a woman in a window. This woman looked somewhat forlorn (apparently this AI has a lot on its artificial mind). The staring contest only lasted a few minutes before the world receded back into the colored nothingness.
For now, Deep Dream is an interesting novelty that gives a glimpse into the possibilities of what artificial intelligence can "imagine." However, I'm hoping Google will show off some real-world benefit in the near future.