Artificial intelligence has quickly grown to dominate the tech industry, with smart computers finding their way into cars, phones and even washing machines. But what about the world of art? Art curator and gallery director Aidan Meller pondered this question when he studied the “terrifying” implications of widespread AI development. Mr Meller, whose background is strictly in dealing with art, has no prior experience with robotics or artificial intelligence. However, his fascination with the cultural zeitgeist of today – Artificial Intelligence – has resulted in the birth of a new kind of artist.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Meller said Ai-Da the robot was developed as an “engagement piece” for people to discuss and analyse the merits of AI technology.
Because of this, the gallery director said it was absolutely paramount to make Ai-Da look as human as possible.
By doing this, the robot is no longer a mechanical machine with a computer for a brain but is an engaging personality to go with it.
Much like Picasso’s work evokes images of the man behind the paintings, so should Ai-Da’s synthetic face stir a response in the audience.
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And having a personality or character like this can open up a discussion about the ethical use of AI technology in the coming years.
Mr Meller said: “We needed a new voice to discuss AI and its implications and so the more I’ve gone into this project, the more I understood the aspects and implications.
“We’re really trying to get Ai-Da to be a voice that actually questions the uses and abuses of AI and that’s the whole point of the project.”
But where does that leave the human artist? Are we risking replacing flesh and bones with servos and electronic circuitry?
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Fortunately, Mr Meller does not think Ai-Da’s development will have such dire consequences.
In the same way, he argued, Claude Monet pioneered impressionistic painting in response to the invention of the camera, so will artists find new ways of creating art.
Mr Meller said the invention of the camera “expanded the palette” of possibilities for artists to dip into and innovate.
In the same way, he hopes Ai-Da can have a similar effect on a world more and more reliant on technology.
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So, how does the humanoid robot work? Unfortunately, the robot does not quite have the dexterity to master the paintbrush.
But Ai-Da’s brilliance is hidden in the AI algorithms, which help her interpret the world through her robotic camera eyes.
Ai-Da absorbs information through her eyes, which she then processes and interprets into unique artistic visions.
AI algorithms developed at Oxford University then relay the information back into her robotic arm – developed by AI engineers at Leeds University – to draw on a canvas.
Ai-Da has managed to create this way unique portraits of computing pioneers such as Alan Turing or Ada Lovelace – the robot’s namesake.
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And Ai-Da’s algorithms also have the capability of creating abstract images of from shapes and colours on the Cartesian coordinate system.
The results are multi-faceted abstracts, which Mr Meller said have so far been met with hugely positive reactions.
Ai-Da’s work was revealed this week (June 5) during a press conference and exhibition at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, where the robot’s work could be seen up-close.
Mr Meller said: “The show has sold out now, so it’s been a very successful show. People are really interested in her.”
By the end of the year, Ai-Da will travel to London for a second art show.
And building on top of the robot’s work, Mr Meller said he is interested in further work with AI, including exploring the kinds of art, which humans cannot create.