The Battle of Prompts

Daga took part in a light-hearted prompt engineering contest

Daga (D. Panas, Data Scientist) took part in a battle of wits earlier this week, taking on Vassilis (V. Galanos, Teaching Fellow in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies) in trying to craft the best prompt for a text-to-image generator. The contest was of course a purely friendly competition, organised by the Data+Design Lab to mark the opening of the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s spring programme season.  

Follow this link for more information on the upcoming events!

The idea of a contest to creatively visualise a specific concept in collaboration with an algorithm was inspired by the Prompt Battle held at HTW Dresden, and the challenge to contestants was to create an apt representation of a ‘Love Machine’ - the theme of the forthcoming series of events at EFI.  

To give you a blow-by-blow (or rather, keystroke-by-keystroke) account: 

In the right corner, we had Vassilis - a well-versed technology sociologist, teacher & philosopher – writing on MidJourney; and in the left corner Daga – our in-house art-dabbling data scientist – writing on Dall-E. Organising the event Pushpi (P. Bagchi, Research Associate at the Edinburgh College of Arts) put 7 minutes on the clock, MC-ing Mat (M. Vidmar, Lecturer in Engineering Management) took over entertaining the audience (with a difficult task to keep a running commentary without giving the contestants any clue as to what their opponent was up to) - and they were off!

Vassilis came out of the blocks strong, expertly combining keywords to zone in on an impressive steam-punk meets art-nouveau aesthetic. Daga took a less visually-pleasing-oriented and more conceptual tack - to rather aesthetically disappointing results. Vassilis then proceeded to tweak the output to best merge the conceptual and abstract notions around love, cuteness and technology, arriving at a result that was both adorable and impressive. Daga panicked at the – frankly speaking – ugly outputs and proceeded to somewhat flounder and allow herself get distracted by not-entirely-age-appropriate or helpful suggestions by the audience (I'm looking at you, Robin! R. Hill, Senior Laboratory Manager at the School of Informatics), recovering at the last minute with a provocative and off-beat entry. 

Cute mole-like steampunk nanorobot
Vassilis' prompt: mole molecular nanorobot heart shaped art noveau smartphones mouse giger adorable kawaii robot
Cartoon of a bed with a magenta spread with multiple robotic articulated arms hovering over it.
Daga's prompt: trippy manga style bed with multiple robotic arms

 Although the original intent was to let the audience vote on the outcome, in true gladiator style, Pushpi had subverted the zero-sum-game paradigm and suggested combining the prompts of both contestants. This proved to be an inspired move, yielding, we think, the most compelling visualisation of ‘Love Machine’. But you can judge for yourself!

PS. Big thanks to Pushpi & Kam, Data+Design Lab, Edinburgh Futures Institute, and everyone involved!

Penned by one of the contestants herself, Daga, striving for an objective account despite the blatant conflict of interest


Artistic illustration of a machine with heart at the center