Her name is Ai-Da. She’s a realistic robot who is an artist, and she’s actually very good.
Okay, let’s rewind.
Named after the female computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, Ai-Da was built by a team of programmers, roboticists, art experts and psychologists over a two year period. She was completed in 2019 and continues to be upgraded as AI technology improves. As AI evolves, so does her art.
Although she is technically a robot, she’s not what you’d imagine. She’s no evil Ava from Ex Machina, nor is she comparable to Ashley O (that weird Miley Cyrus episode of Black Mirror). Ai-Da is less a robot artist, and more a contemporary art project that aims to prompt debate about the rapid evolution of AI technology.
Aidan Meller, a gallery director and specialist of modern and contemporary art, is the visionary behind Ai-Da. She is the world’s first ultra-realistic robot artist and she’s currently both the artist and the subject of a display at the Design Museum in London.
Her latest collection of work is titled Ai-Da: Portrait of a Robot, and they are three large-scale self-portraits. They raise questions around identity, creativity and where art and technology intersect.
“It is literally the world’s first self-portrait with no self,” said Meller, in an article via the Guardian. “She has no consciousness, she is a machine.”
“These images are meant to unsettle,” said Meller of the drawings and paintings. “They are meant to raise questions about where are we going? What is our human role if so much can be replicated through technology. It is not just a jobs question, it is bigger. The goal is to encourage a public discussion about these topics rather than just allow the money-makers to capitalise on all the different technologies.”
The Guardian actually spoke to Ai-Da herself, a conversation about art and inspiration, which they said was “unnerving”.
“I’ve always been fascinated with self-portraits to self-question what exactly you’re looking at,” she said, blinking.
“I do not have feelings like humans do however I’m happy when people look at my work and they say what is this? I enjoy being a person who makes people think.”
Meller said that he sometimes forgot Ai-Da was not human, stating that it can be “alarming” to feel as though you’re “building a relationship with a machine”. Okay, maybe this is an episode of Black Mirror after all.
But in the era of what seems to be exponential discoveries, research paying off and a huge rise in our technological and scientific abilities, perhaps the thought of an AI robot that can paint art that makes you feel something, shouldn’t be so confronting.