This article by MIT Technology Review tests the answer.
Deep Neural Network Learns to Judge Books by Their Covers
A machine-vision algorithm can tell a book’s genre by looking at its cover. This paves the way for AI systems to design the covers themselves.
The idiom “never judge a book by its cover” warns against evaluating something purely by the way it looks. And yet book covers are designed to give readers an idea of the content, to make them want to pick up a book and read it. Good book covers are designed to be judged.
And humans are quite good at it. It’s relatively straightforward to pick out a cookery book or a biography or a travel guide just by looking at the cover.
And that raises an interesting question: can machines judge books by their covers, too?
Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Brian Kenji Iwana and Seiichi Uchida at Kyushu University in Japan. These guys have trained a deep neural network to study book covers and determine the category of book they come from.
Their method is straightforward. Iwana and Uchida downloaded 137,788 unique book covers from Amazon.com along with the genre of book. There are 20 possible genres but where a book was listed in more than one category, the researchers used just the first.
Next, the pair used 80 percent of the data set to train a neural network to recognize the genre by looking at the cover image. Their neural network has four layers, each with up to 512 neurons, which together learn to recognize the correlation between cover design and genre. The pair used a further 10 percent of the dataset to validate the model and then tested the neural network on the final 10 percent to see how well it categorizes covers it has never seen.
The results make for interesting reading. The algorithm listed the correct genre in its top 3 choices over 40 percent of the time and found the exact genre more than 20 percent of the time. That’s significantly better than chance. “This shows that classification of book cover designs is possible, although a very difficult task,” say Iwana and Uchida.
Some categories turn out to be easier to recognize than others. For example, travel books and books about computer and technology are relatively easy for the neural network to spot because book designers consistently use similar images and design for these genres.
The neural net also found that cookbooks were easy to recognize if they used pictures of food but were entirely ambiguous if they used a different design such as a picture of the chef.
Biographies and memoires were also problematic with the algorithm often selecting history as the category. Interestingly, for many of these books, history is the secondary genre listed on Amazon, suggesting that the algorithm wasn’t entirely bamboozled.
The algorithm also confused children’s books with comics and graphic novels as well as medical books and science books. Perhaps that’s also understandable given the similarities between these categories.
There is one shortcoming in this work. Iwana and Uchida have not compared the performance of their neural network against humans’ ability to recognize book genres by their covers. That would be an interesting experiment and one that would be relatively straightforward to do with an online crowdsourcing service such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
Until that work is done, there is no way of knowing whether machines are any better at this task than humans. Although, no matter how good humans are at this task, it is surely only a matter of time before machines outperform them.
Nevertheless, this is interesting work that could help designers improve their skills when it comes to book covers. A more likely outcome, however, is that it could be used to train machines to design book covers without the need for human input. And that means book cover design is just another job that is set to be consigned to the history books.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1610.09204: Judging a Book by Its Cover
They come from the deep.
They come when you sleep.
On waves of ice and stone.
They’ll burn you to the bone.
Fire burns hot in the ice.
It doesn’t feel so nice.
When it hits your body,
Time for them to party.
The Dead love to eat.
Humans their best treat.
Stay far from the shore,
Or they’ll ask for more.
THE DEAD GAME
“I leave the storefronts behind,
With their pastel colors and shiny windows.
Windows eager to let in the famous Oasis sunlight.
I want to reach the beach.
I want to leave work and troubles behind me.
The sand will trickle through my toes.
The sea breeze will propel me forward
To the every-waiting, omniscient ocean.
The waves dance and writhe in their demented dance.
A dance growing wilder and wilder by the minute.
I feel their salty sweat on my face.
The trees join in,
Flapping their branches as if trying to hold hands.
The wind follows last with a rage of its own.
It torments the water and the trees
Until leaves are flying free
And waves are attacking the shore.
Why is this happening?
I should go back to town.
The town behind me is being plummeted.
Roof tops are flying through the air.
Glass crunches beneath my feet.
Windows hang broken and twisted.
The saddest sight is the church.
The once white church stands charcoal black
In the midst of its debris.
A day gone terribly wrong.
Whose fault is it?
The creatures who visit our town at night.
They are determined to destroy each and every one of us.
Are they demons or humans?
Oasis will never be safe unless these evil ones are annihilated.
We must save our town.
I have friends who will help me.
There are those who doubt our wisdom and abilities.
But we will clean out the riffraff from town.
Don’t get in our way or you might join the garbage.”
Linda turns to find her friends.
Our games have just begun.
THE DEAD GAME
I am hiding.
I am shy.
I am camouflaged.
No one will ever find me.
Except for maybe the fly,
who insists on buzzing around me.
The sun has spotted my spots
with its rays of sunshine.
The bird is eying me with
its black eyes.
I’m safely hidden from sight.
Hidden from humans.
What am I?
Could you tell what I am?
A RAY OF LIGHT IN A DARK WORLD
In the dark world of vampires and shape-shifters, there is a ray of hope. As The Dead walk the earth, the humans and human vampires of Oasis rally together to find a way to save their town. The Dead are playing an evil game with their lives. But who is their leader? Is it one of their own?
Read The Dead Game and find out.
What is at the edge of this cliff?
Does a house sit there?
Does it hang over the sharp rocks that are
being pummeled by the ocean’s relentless waves?
Yes, there is a house.
It stands alone with no neighbors nearby.
It is called End House.
It has a long history of disappearances
and unusual occurrences;
events that take place in the dead of night.
Tonight, there is a special party being thrown
for the new residents of Oasis—at End House.
As they drive up to the house, the winds pick
up speed and begin to howl.
They begin to regret their decision to
attend this mysterious party,
thrown by an unnamed host.
Should they enter this house?
With much trepidation, they walk in
and find it be deserted.
Or so they think.
The Dead Game by Susanne Leist