Robot art – the selfie without a self

An exhibition of self-portraits by a robot artist is to open at the Design Museum in May.

Ai-Da, the first ultra-realistic AI robot artist designed and built in a co-operative project two years ago, was named after Ada Lovelace, the mathematician credited with being at the birth of computer science 200 years ago. The robot uses AI algorithms to paint, sculpt, make video art and even perform, with its drawing arm made by AI engineers in Leeds using facial recognition technology, and the sculpture ability developed by a Swedish computer scientist.

Ai-Da is a composite persona containing a wide range of different AI and computer programmes, robotics and silicone, as well as human inputs. It was devised by the gallery director Aidan Meller, who gave it its name, with academic investigation by researcher and curator Lucy Seal, and it was the subject of an exhibition at the Aidan Meller Galleries in Oxford in 2019. It was built by Engineered Arts Ltd and PhD students at Oxford University.

The Design Museum exhibition will show three large scale self-portraits by Ai-Da along with its 3-D printed face. It will also have the world's first AI font devised by an artist robot, effectively pointing the way to language produced by AI language models.

“If Ai-Da does just one important thing it would be to get us considering the confusion in human/machine relations, and encouraging us to think more carefully and more slowly about the choices we make for our future – there are clear advantages that need to be developed and celebrated; however, Orwell and Huxley’s cautionary messages still remain relevant and we would do well to take heed” said Lucy Seal.

Subject to government guidelines, Ai-Da Self Portraits will be at the Design Museum, Kensington High Street, May 7 to June 6.


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