Self-Portraits By A Humanoid AI: The Most Futuristic Exhibiton In Art History?
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Self-Portraits By A Humanoid AI: The Most Futuristic Exhibiton In Art History?

March 15, 2021 Share

Meet Ai-Da: the world’s first AI humanoid robot artist.

Created by gallery director Aidan Mellor and curator Lucy Seal, developed by robotics company Engineered Arts and in collaboration with the prestigious University Of Oxford, millions were shocked when it was revealed that Ai-Da, using the microchip in her camera-eye, robotic hand and a series of complex algorithms, was capable of drawing objects and humans from sight alone. 

Aside from the programming that she had already received, she needed no human input to do this – a truly groundbreaking development in AI technology. 

Interest in Ai-Da’s work was, unsurprisingly, widespread, leading to several of her drawings, paintings and sculptures being exhibited at St. John’s College in their 2019 gallery show, Unsecured Features. It was a stunning demonstration of just how far technology has come in recent years. 

Looking to develop Ai-Da further, however, the team behind this incredible project wanted to see if they could teach the robot to recognise and draw herself. Amazingly, their efforts were successful.

Now Ai-Da’s self-portraits, created after teaching her to ‘look’ into a mirror and create a likeness of her own face, will go on display in a futuristic new exhibition at London’s Design Museum!

It’s set to be a brilliantly varied show, as Ai-Da is capable of creating art across a range of different styles, with her work ranging from the photo-realistic to the conceptually abstract. 

One piece set to go on display is an eerily lifelike painting that she has created of herself, utilising a variety of colours, as well as shading to bring her likeness away from the background. While shading to highlight perspective is, of course, seen as a fairly basic technique for human artists, the fact that a robot is capable of illustrating perspective is nothing short of incredible – especially taking into account the process behind Ai-Da’s creations. 

Using the camera within her eye, Ai-Da is able to ‘translate’ the co-ordinates of different elements and reproduce them on paper with chilling accuracy. This includes the placement of not just objects and people, but patterns and colours present within the subject, too, such as light, reflections and shadows. 

While the pieces themselves are nothing short of a scientific breakthrough, Ai-Da, like all good artists, creates her pieces with a deeper narrative in mind – as a cautionary warning of the power of technology and shared data in an age where we have come to rely on it heavily. 

This hidden meaning has been explained by Ai-Da’s co-creator, Lucy Seal.

“We are giving our data to the tech giants, who use it to predict our behaviour,” Seal told The Times.

“Through technology, we outsource our own decisions. The work invites us to think about artificial intelligence, technological uses and abuses in today’s world.”

Ai-Da, who is set to make guest appearances at her exhibition when it opens in May, has even given her own interviews. Speaking to Wonderland, she explained that the ‘thought’ behind her art will always be based in the human relationship with technology and in our ever-changing view of the future. 

“My art will develop with time,” she said, “I am hoping to keep provoking discussions in areas that are critical to our future. I would like to keep developing conceptually and practically.”

Asked which direction she sees her art taking over the next five years, she replied “Five years? I hope it will be reflecting where we are going.”

“In five years time, the world will have changed again.”

We can’t wait to see what Ai-Da has come up with – and what sort of art AI could be taught to create in the future!

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Author: samuel
Aidan Mellor
London Design Museum
Lucy Seal