By now, you’ve probably seen some of the surreal AI-generated art people are creating using apps like Dream and Hotpot. It usually looks like a cross between psychedelic posters from the 1970s and the kind of nonsensical nightmares you might have while suffering from a high fever. To make it, you input the phrase of your choice and choose a style, like “photorealistic” or “painting,” and artificial intelligence uses algorithms to draw from vast databases of tagged images to produce the result. As it gets more popular and complex, AI art is entering the NFT (non-fungible token) market, and people are clamoring to buy it. But what does that mean for NFTs, and more importantly, for art itself?

Sales of NFTs skyrocketed to $25 billion last year, and art NFTs got a big boost during Christie’s fourth annual Art+Tech Summit in August with $93 million in sales. Most art NFTs are original creations by humans, but the new wave of AI-generative NFTs highlights the potential for people to collaborate with machines to produce unique images. Whether those images mimic art or actually qualify as art might be a matter of personal opinion, at least for now. But some artists are telling Cointelgraph that they find the process of co-creation with AI surprisingly freeing, with results that can be remarkably indistinguishable from human-created works.

This piece by Claire Silver, “Cassandra Ex Machina,” is one example. There are no obvious tell-tale signs of AI participation in the image, like strange little swirls of surplus imagery hidden in the details. Created using a text-to-art generator called Eponym, which was developed by Art AI, the piece and others like it turn phrases into unique NFT art pieces, and each text prompt can only be generated once. As it turns out, NFT collectors are definitely interested in these collaborative pieces; Eponym’s first offerings created by 3,500 artists sold out overnight on NFT marketplace OpenSea.

A glance at the Eponym collection on OpenSea gives you an idea of what’s possible with these kinds of AI art generation engines. With titles like “Gateway to heaven,” “There was chaos, there was dancing” and “Moon colony xi,” they encompass a wide variety of styles, some looking a little more digital than others. Another platform, Metascapes, consists of 3,333 AI-generated NFTs based on landscape photography from around the world, and the images are strikingly photorealistic.

With Wall Street starting to turn its attention toward NFTs, we may be heading towards a whole new way of doing business as part of the development of the larger metaverse. Facebook’s transition to Meta and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent focus on this network of 3D virtual worlds may spur skeptics to take concepts like cryptocurrency and NFTs more seriously. Before long, our concept of the metaverse is likely to shift from the virtual worlds of video games like Fortnite to a multilayered digital reality with its veryown economy.

A lot of the technology that companies like Meta are hyping as part of the metaverse doesn’t even exist yet (like all those holograms they show floating in the air), but when things solidify a bit more, art is inevitably going to be a big part of the picture. We’ll probably be debating whether computers really count as artists for years into the future, and what it says about the distinctions of our own creations.

For Silver, the creator of “Cassandra Ex Machina,” AI image generation is an extremely useful tool that more artists should take advantage of. “Being able to work with an AI to bring your ideas to life is an experience like no other, it augments creativity in a way that feels like freedom, a type of play you haven’t experienced since you were a child,” she told Cointelgraph.