About the Magazine Cover

It may seem strange to put a cover story on the back page of the print magazine.

But this is not the actual cover story about Emory’s commitment to artificial intelligence (AI). Instead, it’s a story about how we made the cover of this magazine—by using AI.

Once we knew the big topic for this issue, we could have gone our normal route and deployed our staff photographers or hired a freelance illustrator to capture the essence of AI in a single image. However, we quickly realized that the more interesting path would be to see if an artistic AI tool could paint a “selfie” of sorts. 

We explored a number of AI artistic tools and ultimately chose WOMBO’s Dream app, which went viral on social channels late last year when throngs of people tried it out to see just what it could do. One of our main criteria for selecting this tool was that Dream was simple to use—type in a few keywords, select an artistic style, and then let the app perform its magic. But at the same time its creative output was surprisingly complex and stunning.

Since this AI app can’t do much without the human element, we reached out to Emory students to tap their imaginations. We launched a contest and received nearly forty intriguing submissions that explored a variety of styles and concepts. To the right, you’ll see some of the best.

There were many AI-powered works we loved, however we had to be judicious in selecting what could work as a cover. Harkening back to our idea of an AI selfie, we all agreed that Sharon Lee’s entry could be quickly recognized as distinctly futuristic, and the painting’s central robotic figure expressed both strength and compassion. Lee was awarded a cash prize for her winning entry, as well as the honor of her art gracing the cover of this magazine.

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