If you’re having problems deciding on Halloween costumes, you might find inspiration in an unexpected place: artificial intelligence (AI). Professor Panda, Strawberry shark, and Pirate firefighter are my favorites.

Image credits: Yasin Erdal.

Janelle Shane is a researcher who likes to explore the weirder side of AI. She felt that there’s often too little creativity when it comes to Halloween costumes, so she employed the help of neural networks (something she’s done several times in the past) to come up with some spooky-fresh ideas.

“I train neural networks, a type of machine learning algorithm, to write humor by giving them datasets that they have to teach themselves to mimic. They can sometimes do a surprisingly good job, coming up with a metal band called Chaosruga craft beer called Yamquak and another called The Fine Stranger (which now exists!), and a My Little Pony called Blue Cuss.”

However, it wasn’t an easy process. For starters, she didn’t have a large enough dataset to start training the AI. So she crowdsourced it by asking readers to list awesome Halloween costumes, receiving over 4,500 suggestions. There were no big surprises in the datasets. The classics dominated the list — with 42 witches, 32 ghosts, 30 pirates, 22 Batmans, 21 cats (30 including sexy cats), 19 vampires, and 17 each of pumpkins and sexy nurses. Overall, some 300 costumes (around 6%) were “sexy.” This is a bit surprising to me, since going to Halloween parties you get the feeling that much more than 6% of them focus on sexiness.

The submissions were certainly creative, and it was clear that the AI would have a tough job surpassing its human counterparts. She used a version of AI which learns words from scratch, letter by letter, with no knowledge of their meaning. Early in the training, the AI made many missteps, but as it learned and learned, it became better and better at generating costume ideas. Janelle herself took to Twitter to present some of the results:

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Credits: Twitter – @JanelleCShane, via BI.

Some of the costume ideas were seriously awesome:

  • Punk Tree
  • Disco Monster
  • Spartan Gandalf
  • Starfleet Shark
  • A masked box
  • Martian Devil
  • Panda Clam
  • Potato man
  • Shark Cow
  • Space Batman
  • The shark knight
  • Snape Scarecrow
  • Gandalf the Good Witch
  • Professor Panda
  • Strawberry shark
  • Vampire big bird
  • Samurai Angel
  • Lady Garbage
  • Pirate firefighter
  • Fairy Batman

I’m telling you, shark knight, Space Batman, and Pirate firefighter are gonna be massive. Spartan Gandalf sounds like he’s just too powerful. There are many more ideas, go read them here.

The AI also came up with what could very well be Marvel’s next cast of superheroes (or spoofs).

  • The Bunnizer
  • Ladybog
  • Light man
  • Bearley Quinn
  • Glad woman
  • Robot Werewolf
  • Super Pun
  • Super of a bog
  • Space Pants
  • Barfer
  • Buster pirate
  • Skull Skywolk lady
  • Skynation the Goddess
  • Fred of Lizard

While this is still an easy-going use of AI, it raises an interesting question. After all, looking at some of the ideas on the list, you could easily mistake it for creativity. Will future, more refined AIs be… creative?