“Ai-Da is the world’s first ultra-realistic AI robot artist. She can draw, and is a performance artist. As a machine, with AI capabilities, her artist persona is the artwork, along with her drawings, performance art and collaborative paintings and sculptures.”
Named in honour of the pioneering female mathematician Ada Lovelace, Ai-Da was invented by gallery director Aidan Meller. She had her first solo exhibition, ‘Unsecured Futures’, at St John’s College, Oxford in June 2019.
Ai-Da, named in honour of the pioneering female mathematician Ada Lovelace, was invented by gallery director Aidan Meller. She can draw things from life using an inbuilt camera, a mechanical arm developed at Leeds University, and algorithms developed by scientists at Oxford. She had her first solo exhibition, Unsecured Futures, at St John’s College, Oxford in June 2019.
“Ai-Da is the world’s first ultra-realistic AI robot artist. She can draw, and is a performance artist. As a machine, with AI capabilities, her artist persona is the artwork, along with her drawings, performance art and collaborative paintings and sculptures.
In the time of online avatars, AI chatbots, Alexa and Siri, Ai-Da as a robotic artist is acutely relevant. She is not alive, but she is a persona that we relate and respond to. This surreal situation of confusing realities is already part of our daily lives: in our digital realms, who are we speaking to on online platforms? What algorithms are working behind our internet choices? Who writes the algorithms, and who benefits and who loses? Extraordinarily complex, our online worlds are pushed and pulled by forces and personalities that are sometimes apparent but largely oblique. Ai-Da, the machine with AI capacities, highlights those tensions: is she an artist in her own right? Is she an artist’s alter ego? Is she an avatar, or a fictional character? All these options bring powerfully to the forefront the complexity of our interacting digital and physical worlds and the masked identities we can assume in both.
So when we talk of Ai-Da as an artist, and Ai-Da’s artwork, we do this with full acknowledgement of her machine status, and the human/machine collaboration of her artwork, while simultaneously developing her artist persona and oeuvre, as this is an astute mirror of contemporary currents and behaviour. And as trans-humanism and biotechnology continue, these issues are going to become ever more urgent and potentially dangerous. Unfettered, these advances could head us into havoc, and the twentieth century shows us just how bad can get. All technological advances bring the good, the bad and the banal. If Ai-Da does just one important thing, it would be to get us considering the confusion of human/machine relations, and encouraging us to think more carefully and more slowly about the choices we make for our future – Orwell and Huxley’s messages still ring relevant and we would do well to take heed.”
Facial-recognition technology allows Ai-Da to draw pencil portraits of people by scanning their features with the cameras in her eyes and using the robotic arm to map them on paper.
Ai-Da: Portrait of Ada Lovelace
To create paintings, Ai-Da’s drawings are fed into AI algorithms that interact with the Cartesian plane to plot them along two axis and create abstract versions of her art.
Ai-Da: Cartesian Painting 1 (photo credit: Victor Frankowski)
Ai-Da: Cartesian Painting 3 (photo credit: Victor Frankowski)
A 3D-printed sculpture of a bee was created by combining a drawing Ai-Da did of a micro-CT scan of a real-life bee made by professor Javier Alba-Tercedor. This drawing was then fed into an AI Bees Algorithm that used swarm intelligence to interpret the coordinates of the drawing. The resulting distortion was then rendered by a scientist in Sweden, 3D-printed in wax and then cast in bronze.
Ai-Da: Bee Sculpture. (photo credit: Victor Frankowski). This bronze sculpture was made from Ai-Da’s drawing of a bee scan.
Ai-Da recites poetry generated from AI using prison literature.
Ai-Da Robot and Aidan Meller with Painting (Photographer Nicky Johnston)