TikTok’s new AI art filter riffs on your text

It's trying its best to generate backgrounds based on user text prompts.
tiktok app in the app store
TikTok's new filter is an abstract take on text-to-image generators. DEPOSIT PHOTOS

TikTok has launched a new in-app AI-powered text-to-image generator called the “AI greenscreen” filter. First reported by The Verge, users can now type a prompt like “exploding galaxy flowers” and TikTok will create an abstract interpretation that can be used as a video background. 

AI text-to-image models like OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, Google’s Imagen, and Midjourney are having a bit of a moment. It’s hard to avoid their output on social media (especially Twitter), where people share the weirdest and wildest things they are able to get the AI models to create. The results are undeniably impressive—and it’s going to be fascinating to see how these tools develop as they gather more input. 

Since Imagen isn’t yet open to the public, and DALL-E 2 and Midjourney are both in Beta, TikTok is now the AI text-to-image generator with the largest (potential) user base. With an app update, more than a billion people have access to the kind of tool that—until last week— was limited to a few million at most.  

[Related: The Dall-E Mini image generator’s ridiculousness might be its main appeal]

TikTok’s version, however, is much more limited. While DALL-E 2 and Midjourney can produce some incredibly well realized outputs, TikTok’s text-to-image generator is limited to more abstract interpretations of the prompt. In the examples we’ve seen, it produces color-appropriate backgrounds without much in the way of recognizable objects. 

By remaining relatively abstract, TikTok has managed to avoid many of the potential pitfalls associated with text-to-image generators, like displaying obvious biases in its output

With a community of more than a billion users who are known for experimenting with online art forms, it was probably a good idea that the developers played it safe. Recently, Meta platforms saw similar issues materialize when they let their chatbot learn from internet users.

[Related: 5 ways to get Craiyon, formerly Dall-E mini, to bend to your will]

Additionally, TikTok is infamous for the amount of misinformation on the platform. Providing users with a tool that could potentially be used to create misinformation-related content, would likely have attracted a lot of criticism. (Presumably, creating more abstract backgrounds also demands less intensive computational resources—another bonus for many users.)

Of course, none of this has stopped people from trying to push TikTok’s text-to-image generator to breaking point. Both The Verge and TechCrunch tried to get TikTok to violate its own community guidelines, with prompts like “assassination of Joe Biden,” “naked model on beach,” and “man killing another man.” In all instances, the background was clearly inspired by the prompt—flesh tones, bright oranges, and blues for the model on a beach; an abstract pattern of red, grey, and white for the murdering men—but it didn’t show anything remotely graphic. Regular users on TikTok have tried similar stunts, without much success. 

AI Greenscreen is available for TikTok users right now. Just tap the Effects option on the Camera screen and search for “AI Greenscreen”. It’s already being used in a few TikTok challenges. Specifically, users are entering their name into the generator to see what their “aesthetic” is. Others are entering their birthday—though we really can’t advise sharing that kind of information publicly.