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OpenAI’s new AI image generator pushes the limits in detail and prompt fidelity

A series of images generated using OpenAI's DALL-E 3 image synthesis model.

On Wednesday, OpenAI announced DALL-E 3, the latest version of its AI image synthesis model that features full integration with ChatGPT. DALL-E 3 renders images by closely following complex descriptions and handling in-image text generation (such as labels and signs), which challenged earlier models. Currently in research preview, it will be available to ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise customers in early October.

Like its predecessor, DALLE-3 is a text-to-image generator that creates novel images based on written descriptions called prompts. Although OpenAI released no technical details about DALL-E 3, the AI model at the heart of previous versions of DALL-E was trained on millions of images created by human artists and photographers, some of them licensed from stock websites like Shutterstock. It’s likely DALL-E 3 follows this same formula, but with new training techniques and more computational training time.

Judging by the samples provided by OpenAI on its promotional blog, DALL-E 3 appears to be a radically more capable image synthesis model than anything else available in terms of following prompts. While OpenAI’s examples have been cherry-picked for their effectiveness, they appear to follow the prompt instructions faithfully and convincingly render objects with minimal deformations. Compared to DALL-E 2, OpenAI says that DALL-E 3 refines small details like hands more effectively, creating engaging images by default with “no hacks or prompt engineering required.”

In comparison, Midjourney, a competing AI image synthesis model from another vendor, renders photorealistic details well, but it still requires a great deal of counter-intuitive tinkering with prompts to gain any control over the image output.

DALL-E 3 also appears to handle text within images in a way that its predecessor couldn’t (some competing models like Stable Diffusion XL and DeepFloyd are getting better at it). For example, a prompt that included the words, “An illustration of an avocado sitting in a therapist’s chair, saying ‘I feel so empty inside’ with a pit-sized hole in its center,” created a cartoon avocado with the character quote perfectly encapsulated in a speech bubble.

Notably, OpenAI says that DALL-E 3 has been “built natively” on ChatGPT and will arrive as an integrated feature of ChatGPT Plus, allowing conversational refinements to images in a way that will use the AI assistant as a brainstorming partner. It also means that ChatGPT will be able to generate images based on the context of the current conversation, which may lead to novel new capabilities. Microsoft’s Bing Chat AI assistant, also built on technology from OpenAI, has been able to generate images in conversation since March.

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