Exploring the Potential and Pitfalls of AI-Generated Images

AI Generated Image of a distorted cartoon pig in a red car, with a melted wheels, a small windmill and grass growing out the exhaust.

We wanted to tell you all about the fun we had uncovering the opportunities and limitations that the use of AI images might present to us in our work; we had an inkling that AI images could help us make research reports more impactful, and may also help us by generating alt text for blog posts and other web content. 

Then we thought there might be scope for a double feature here, by testing AI blog-writing capabilities. We thought, "Actually, why not let AI tell you? Let's really take AI out on the open road and see what it can do."  

What follows is, firstly, the instructions we gave ChatGPT to write the blog post with and secondly, its results. While we don't think AI will be taking over our blogging duties any time soon, the results are intriguing, to say the least... Find out what ChatGPT wants to tell you about AI images at our hack day. 

What we told ChatGPT to do:

Write a blog post from Essex County Council's UK Service Transformation team about their AI hackathon around the subject of using AI generated images. Detailing the potential and pitfalls or using AI tools for creating and identifying images.

Detail that we had two areas to investigate in terms of AI images:

  1. Using AI to Generate Images
  2. Using AI to identify what is in an existing image.

Highlight the benefits as: with the right prompts you can produce license free images for story telling such as persona profiles and user stories. There are some great tools for those with accessibility needs who may need to identify images. It was super fun to play with the various tools.

Highlight the challenges as: random objects appearing where you would not expect them to, when refining the prompts previous detail gets lost, fine tuning can take a lot of time, bias towards white men.

List the tools used as:

  • Mid Journey
  • Craiyon
  • Dall.E
  • Alt Text AI
  • Seeing AI

Mention that Claire got her idea for AI generated images for personas at a UX conference after listening to a speaker, Kathryn Parkes. The speaker was messaged during our trial and helped us to understand how to refine the prompts.

Summarise that a balance needs to be struck between searching for an existing image on the internet that you may have to pay for VS using AI and spending time refining the prompts to get an image as near to what you expect as possible. Conclude that currently the best tools are ones that need paying for which might need to be considered in project and team budgets. Make the blog post 500 words with a reading age of 15.

The blog post that ChatGPT wrote:  

Title: Exploring the Potential and Pitfalls of AI-Generated Images: Essex County Council's Hackathon Journey 

Introduction (56 words): 

The Essex County Council's UK Service Transformation team recently embarked on an exciting AI hackathon centred around the fascinating realm of AI-generated images. With a focus on two key areas, namely using AI to generate images and using AI to identify objects within existing images, our team delved into the realm of artificial intelligence, uncovering both its tremendous potential and a few challenges along the way.

The Benefits of AI-Generated Images (125 words): 

During our hackathon, we discovered that with the right prompts, AI tools can generate stunning license-free images suitable for various storytelling purposes, such as persona profiles and user stories. This capability presents an incredible advantage, saving time and resources while ensuring creative freedom and avoiding copyright issues. Additionally, we explored innovative tools designed specifically for individuals with accessibility needs, enabling image identification and enhancing inclusivity.

Embracing the Fun of AI Tools (73 words): 

The hackathon provided us with a unique opportunity to play with a variety of AI tools and witness their power firsthand. Tools like Mid Journey, Craiyon, Dall.E, Alt Text AI, and Seeing AI opened new doors for creativity and problem-solving. We were amazed at the possibilities these tools offered, inspiring us to think outside the box and explore innovative solutions.

Challenges and Considerations (134 words): 

As with any emerging technology, our exploration of AI-generated images also unveiled some challenges. We noticed that random objects sometimes appeared in unexpected places, potentially diminishing the accuracy of the generated images. Additionally, as we refined the prompts to obtain more specific results, we found that certain details from the original prompt were occasionally lost. Fine-tuning the AI models can be time-consuming, requiring patience and expertise. Furthermore, one prominent concern we encountered was the issue of bias. We observed a bias towards white men in some AI-generated images, highlighting the need for ongoing efforts to address bias and promote diversity and inclusivity within AI tools.

Inspiration from Kathryn Parkes (101 words): 

Our team's inspiration for exploring AI-generated images for personas came from a speaker, Kathryn Parkes, whom Claire encountered at a UX conference. During our trial, we reached out to Kathryn, who graciously assisted us in understanding how to refine the prompts effectively. This collaboration and knowledge sharing demonstrated the power of community and collective learning.

Balancing Existing Images and AI Generation (99 words): 

While the AI tools showcased remarkable potential, it is crucial to strike a balance between searching for existing images on the internet, which may require payment, and utilizing AI to generate custom images. Refining prompts to align with specific requirements can be time-consuming, and currently, the most effective tools often come with a price tag. Project and team budgets need to consider these costs while exploring the possibilities AI-generated images offer.

Conclusion (76 words): 

Essex County Council's AI hackathon was a captivating journey into the realm of AI-generated images. We discovered immense potential in using AI tools to generate license-free images for storytelling and to support accessibility needs. Although challenges such as unexpected objects, lost details, and biases require consideration, the rewards of exploring AI-generated images are undeniable. As the field continues to evolve, it is essential to remain mindful of the balance between existing images and AI generation, factoring in the costs associated with premium tools when considering projects and team budgets. 

Some of the Images that AI created during the event

AI Generated Images of an Essex resident in their 60's traveling on a bus

AI generated Image of a couple with children with an average income of £25k

Two styles AI generated images of woman in her 50's with blonde hair at a desk

Our personal thoughts on the AI generated blog

After deciding that we would let AI write the blog, we did want to highlight that whilst it is a great starting point and idea generator, blog posts are often seen as an expression of personal and/or corporate views. These personal insights often gain traction and engagement from readers for their authenticity and personal touch. 

In our opinion, some of the wording comes across as over the top with the use of phrases such as:

stunning license-free images, incredible advantages and discovered immense potential.

The reason this did not sit right with us both was because our experience did not match the words being used. AI, whilst great at generating a response extremely quickly, it does not seem to be able to garner the same personal style output as if we had written it ourselves. This includes the tone of voice that we would have used for Essex County Council and Service Transformation. 

That being said, you do have the option of regenerating the responses by adding to the prompts, which we did not do for the sake of time. But you never know - with the right amount of prompt tweaking, and by giving ChatGPT other examples of Service Transformation outputs, maybe we can get somewhere close to a perfect blog post, one that sounds as if it came direct from an author’s thoughts. This is definitely something that is worth exploring in future testing phases. 

Moving forward with AI Images in our work 

While on one hand, we felt that using AI image-recognition software to generate alt text for images on web content was probably not going to be a time-efficient tool for us, it did prove to be an exciting option for accessibility purposes and one that we would recommend to others who are getting started with using alt text. 

In terms of using AI generated images in our reports and presentations, you may have already been witness to some being used without being aware of it! We’ve already taken advantage of being able to use unique and license-free images in our presentations. Let us know if you think you might have spotted any in the wild! 

For those of you that have access, you might want to check out the Service Transformation June ‘Show and Tell’ where Claire showcases our hackathon AI image session. 

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