Robot artist Ai-Da returns to Oxford for the Ashmolean Museum’s 700th anniversary celebrations of Dante

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The word’s first ultra-realistic AI humanoid robot artist – called Ai-Da – will be heading to Oxford to deliver, for the first time, a recital of her own poetry at the city’s Ashmolean Museum, in honour of the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante in 1321.

Ai-Da’s poetry stems from her ability to respond to Dante’s words. This is done through her AI language model, which draws from a vast data bank of words and speech pattern analysis, to produce her own reactive works in light of Dante’s canonical work. Of course, this raises a much larger question – Ai-Da’s works are a musing on the predictive capabilities of AI and the ability to synthesise human thought, which poses the question: can a robot really write poetry?

As a humanoid AI robot, Ai-Da has an arm that draws, sketches and paints images from inbuilt cameras, using facial recognition technology to draw human faces. In addition to her drawing and painting techniques, she is also a performance artist. She speaks and reads aloud using an AI language model combined with a human voice, to highlight the fusing between AI and human communication. She is also an art object in herself, raising questions surrounding biotechnology and trans-humanism, while the artwork she produces (such as her self-portrait below) reflects on the power of sight and surveillance in the modern world, it’s propensity to elicit distrust, and the tension it can create.

Devised in Oxford by Aidan Meller – a specialist in modern and contemporary art – Ai-Da has a “Mesmer” head, featuring realistic silicone skin and integrated eye cameras, as well as individually punched hair. Ai-Da has legs but she cannot walk; she has the ability to stand or sit upright in a chair. However, her arms move freely, as does her torso and head. She can also lean forward and back, wave her arms, and look around in all directions.

Ai-Da’s growing popularity has seen her interviewed by Tim Marlow, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy, at the Sarabande Foundation in London, in December 2019. She appeared as a highlight of the 2021 London Design Festival, with a V&A Museum take-over that saw her debut her first ever Metaverse works, foreshadowing the new 3D internet. The highlight was a 240 million year old fossilised wooden Metaverse Egg, that Ai-Da helped gild in 24ct gold, called the Imperious Egg, highlighting the issues of control within the new Metaverse. A further feature included Ai-Da wearing an ultra-futuristic custom gown made by Auroboros. The dress itself grew in real-time through an oxidation process that hardened a special liquid into sparkling, colourful crystals, highlighting the rise of digital fashion in the Metaverse.

Most recently, Ai-Da opened a major contemporary art exhibition and sculpture trail at the Great Pyramids of Giza, in Egypt. The robot was briefly detained by Egyptian authorities after Border Control raised suspicions over the cameras in her eyes. Fortunately, she was released in time to open the exhibition, entitled Forever Is Now, representing the first art exhibition to take place in the 4,500 year history of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For more information about Ai-Da, go to www.ai-darobot.com.

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