Osamu Akiyama at Osaka University in Japan says he has developed a machine-learning neural network that can render any kind of line drawing in ASCII that is very similar to human artists' ASCII artwork.
Akiyama trained the network using 500 ASCII drawings derived from the popular Japanese message boards 5channel and Shitaraba. He says the challenge stems from the fact that much handmade online ASCII art does not cite the original image the ASCII work is based on, and so the algorithm was unable to learn how a line drawing is translated into text.
Akiyama addressed this with a network designed by other scientists to clean up rough sketches so ASCII art can be reverse-engineered to the original drawing. Once the network produced estimates of the original line drawing, they were used as input to train the network to learn which characters were used to create the ASCII image.
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