AI takes over an online knitting community

The latest in a series of irreverent AI projects by humorist and technologist Janelle Shane is interactive and focused around the online knitting community Ravelry.

Shane trained a type of neural network on a series of over 500 sets of knitting instructions. Then, she generated new instructions, which members of the Ravelry community have actually attempted to knit.

While Shane admits that she cannot understand the output of the neural network, but the devoted users of Ravelry have the necessary knowledge to put the instructions to the test.

The human-machine collaboration created configurations of yarn that you probably wouldn’t give to your in-laws for Christmas, but they were interesting. The user citikas was the first to post a try at one of the earliest patterns, “reverss shawl.” It was strange, but it did have some charisma.

Reverss Shawl, by Ravelry user citikas

Why it’s hot

We already rely on neural networks to do various code-based tasks for us, but few instances of artificial intelligence have crossed the digital-physical barrier quite like this one. Knitting instructions are like code, and while the neural network doesn’t understand how each bit of code relates to a physical stitch, the human knitters were able to interpret the code and make decisions about how to handle inconsistencies.

One user, bevbh, described some of the errors as like “code that won’t compile.” For example, bevbh gave this scenario: “If you are knitting along and have 30 stitches in the row and the next row only gives you instructions for 25 stitches, you have to improvise what to do with your remaining five stitches.”

The creations of SkyKnit are fully cyborg artifacts, mixing human whimsy and intelligence with machine processing and ignorance. And the misapprehensions are, to a large extent, the point.

OK and here are the rest of the projects, which are hilarious.

The SkyKnit design “fishcock” as interpreted by the Ravelry user BellaG

An attempt to knit the pattern “tiny baby whale Soto” by the user GloriaHanlon

Read more at The Atlantic