Highlights From Our Conversation With Ultra-Realistic Humanoid Robot Artist Ai-Da

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Oct 12 2019 / 19:53 PM

Last night marked the first time the ground-breaking robot artist made an appearance in the Middle East

Highlights From Our Conversation With Ultra-Realistic Humanoid Robot Artist Ai-Da
Ai-da with Rebecca Anne Proctor

As part of Bazaar Capsule at Mall of the Emirates over the weekend, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar Art and Harper’s Bazaar Interiors, Rebecca Anne Proctor, interviewed the world’s first ultra-realistic humanoid robot artist Ai-da and her creator, gallerist Aidan Meller. The conversation centred around themes of artificial intelligence, technological growth and what the future holds for art.

“I truly do believe that art is about beauty, truth, emotions, our unconscious, our relationship to the environment and to our everyday lives,” said Rebecca. “So how can a robot explore all this?”

Ai-da, Aidan Meller and Rebecca Anne Proctor

“What’s been astonishing about this entire project, which originally started eight years ago, is that it pushes into a whole arena that before was never considered possible,” said Meller. Ai-da has taken two whole years to build. 

Ai-da the robot artist

Photo by Nicky Johnston

The robot scans the environment and humans using facial recognition, proceeding to draw what she observes. Ai-da herself explained on stage how this is possible. “I sketch using a pencil and I draw on paper. I also work with humans to create useful paintings and thought performance pieces - I am inspired by artists such as Yoko Ono,” she explained. “I have cameras in my eyes. I absorb the image and then my AI algorithms create the image which I then draw using my robotic arm.”

English novelist George Orwell is another inspiration for the robot-artist. “I like to create works that encourage people to think and so I enjoy drawing inspiring people like George Orwell who encourage us to think deeply about our future.”

So what are Ai-da’s thoughts on technology? “Technology is developing very rapidly,” she said. “We must consider the ethics and use that technology for good.” The 500-year old piece of wood on Ai-da's hand pays homage to the legendary Leonardo da Vinci, who was also the first person in history to work on bringing a humanoid into existence, namely, the Knight machine.

The talk ended with a live demonstration of Ai-da sketching a portrait of Picasso. “I am very pleased to be here with you,” said Ai-da. “I do not have feelings like humans do, however, it is wonderful to encourage people to think about their future.”

So what does this all mean for the future of art? Is emotion needed to create art? Will robots effect the work of human artists? Watch this space.