Ai-Da is an ethical arts project intended to highlight the beneficial and creative use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the world and warn against its potential abuses. The project manifests itself through its namesake, Ai-Da, a bespoke, life-sized, humanoid ‘female’ robot with AI capabilities. Ai-Da is therefore an artist robot with the capability to create art. Her creator calls her the ‘First Ultra Realistic Robot Artist in the World.’
The brainchild of Lucy Steal and Aidan Meller, Ai-Da was created in 2019 and built by Engineered Arts, the Oxford-based specialists in developing humanoid and semi-humanoid robots. She uses AI algorithms that reflect pioneering techniques in AI art created by PhD students from the Machine Learning Department at the University of Oxford to create her art.
The art that Ai-Da produces – her drawings, performance art and collaborative paintings and sculptures – speaks to the very nature of art itself and raises some of the most important issues facing humanity at present. Can a robot be an artist? Can a robot be creative? Will technology inevitably take over every aspect of human life? Is new technology always benign? How closely should new advances be policed?
Ai-Da creates her art by capturing images using the camera in her eye, which are then processed by her AI algorithms to become real space coordinates, which she then turns into drawings using her robotic arm. The results are creative, certainly by the recent definitions. Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex, Margaret Boden, has suggest “creativity is the ability to come up with ideas or artefacts that are new, surprising and valuable,” all attributes that Ai-Da’s art possesses. And like other artists, from Rembrandt and his workshops during the Dutch Golden Age to Damien Hirst and his dot paintings, she collaborates with others to produce her paintings and sculptures. Indeed, Ai-Da’s art can be seen as the product of broad collaborations across various specialisations, for example, between artists, scientists, designers, machines and computers. As such, her practice is the embodiment of the networked, technological, physical and virtual worlds inhabited by today’s creative artists.
With her engaging personality, Ai-Da has generated widespread interest across large cross-sections of society, both cross-culturally and across generations. Her appeal works on many levels: to the engineering and technology communities due to her cutting-edge technology, to cognitive scientists for her use of AI, and of course to the arts community with the art she creates. She is also a successful speaker on new technology and presents to a wide range of audiences regarding their ethical implications. Her ability to engage with such audiences plays an important educational role in the context of the rapidly evolving development of AI.
Ai-Da is named after the English mathematician and writer, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, who is today more widely known as Ada Lovelace (1815-1852). Lovelace is celebrated for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. In doing so, she recognised that machines had applications beyond pure calculation, as well as publishing the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. Lovelace is therefore widely regarded as being the first person to recognise the full potential of computers and one of the pioneers of computer programming.
With its ground-breaking representation of Ai-Da, Annka Kultys has become the first gallery in the world to represent a robot artist. The gallery will participate in the Ai-Da project for a year following Ai-Da’s first solo exhibition at Annka Kultys Gallery, which opens in September 2020.
Since Ai-Da’s launch in 2019, she has shown at the Barbican Gallery London, Tate Modern, Ars Electronica in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and has been interviewed by Tim Marlow, then Artistic Director of the Royal Academy. In February she presented a TEDx talk, which received over 100,000 views in its first few days online. In 2020-21, Ai-Da will undertake seven museum shows, be a partner for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and exhibit at the United Nations.
Ai-Da ROBOT DRAWING A PORTRAIT
PAST EXHIBITION AT ANNKA KULTYS
10 SEPTEMBER – 10 OCTOBER 2020
“Do Robots Dream of Electric Bees?”, the exhibition by the robot artist Ai-Da at AKG, has been featured on CLOT Magazine. The show, on view until October, 10th, builds on a new body of work by the humanoid artist and includes paintings, sculptures and video. You can read the article here.