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Re-defining Art with Ai-Da

Created by Aidan Meller, a professional in contemporary art, Ai-Da is an ultra-realistic robot that doubles as an artist. She has 3D-printed teeth, silicone skin, and camera-containing eyes. These cameras are used for facial recognition of her subjects – which acts as the start of her self-portrait creation process. After hours of moving her robotic hand, the end-result is a highly realistic depiction of her subject that leaves many with chills.

Conversations with Ai-Da have helped many understood her inspirations, goals, and attitude as an unconventional artist. Her responses aren’t pre-programmed, rather extensive in nature, which makes many feel as though they are conversing with an actual human being. Indeed, she has presented a TED talk titled “The Intersection of Art and AI” at Oxford University, exploring the ethical issues surrounding the fusion of art and technology.

Beyond self-portraits, Ai-Da ventures into the realm of literature through performing and writing her own poetry. In just ten seconds, she can ideate a 20,000 word piece. Recently, Ai-Da read Dante Alighieri’s well-known “The Divine Comedy”, examining speech patterns to write and then perform her own unique piece at Ashmolean Museum. Despite the monotone voice, the actual content of the poem itself closely resembles one made by a human, with impressive rhythmic flow and inclusion of figurative language.

Ai-Da is not the only robotic artist that exists. Xiaoice is an AI chatbot who engages in empathetic conversations with 660 million users. He can construct emotive Chinese poetry, inspired by images users submit, then send these to them after. Another robot can create Haikyu based on GPS data, which is personalised to a user’s location and surroundings.

These niche creations are guaranteed to spark further questions moving forward. What we know for certain is that the state of invention is ever-shifting; evidently, the boundary between human and computer ingenuity is already dissolving. Interestingly, Meller states that the intention behind creating Ai-Da was to spark discussions, namely on both the merits and dangers of computational creativity. Though some argue that humanoid robots like Ai-Da remain largely unrealistic, it is no doubt that language models will become more developed with time. So, how do we welcome these technologies whilst preserving our innate human qualities? Moreover, Meller believes that people shouldn’t be fearful of the AI, but rather our own abilities to design and distribute such oppressing technologies. Ai-Da is thus here to encourage us to reflect on our choices and subsequently take action.



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