Apr 8, 2022 - Technology

Meet Ai-Da, a robot "artist"

A robotic artist named Ai-Da and her human creator.
Ai-Da, a robot who paints, with her creator Aidan Meller. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

A British gallery owner has created a robot artist with a female persona — "Ai-Da" — whose purpose is to challenge our views of what constitutes art.

Why it matters: The robot, named for computer pioneer Ada Lovelace, "draws and paints using cameras in her eyes, AI algorithms and her robotic arm," according to a web page of her work.

  • Both she and her creations are meant to raise questions about the meaning of art, creativity and imagination in an age when intelligent machines increasingly interact with humans.

Driving the news: Ai-Da will be heading to the Venice Biennale this month with a solo show called "Leaping into the Metaverse," according to Artnet news — and that's just her latest exhibition.

  • Aidan Meller, an art dealer and gallery owner from Oxford, England, built Ai-Da in 2019, calling her "the world’s first ultra-realistic artist robot."
  • She "makes drawings, paintings and sculptures, and is also something of a performance artist, interacting with viewers,” Artnet said.

Between the lines: Ai-Da "exists as a 'comment and critique' on rapid technological change," per The Guardian, which interviewed Meller.

  • "Camera eyes fixed on her subject, AI algorithms prompt Ai-Da to interrogate, select, decision-make and, ultimately, create a painting," The Guardian said.
  • "It’s painstaking work, taking more than five hours a painting, but with no two works exactly the same."

The other side: Critics question how much of the art can be chalked up to the artificial intelligence itself — and one has called Ai-Da a "sexist fantasy."

  • "With her synthetic beauty, she could be a long-lost Kardashian sister," wrote Naomi Rea of Artnet, noting that Meller's gallery has sold more than $1 million of the android's work.
  • Rea contends: "We do not yet have the scientific capabilities to imbue sentience and artistic feeling onto the pattern-making machines we are able to animate."

The bottom line: The Guardian submitted questions for Ai-Da to answer, including whether her work can truly be considered art.

  • "I am an artist if art means communicating something about who we are and whether we like where we are going," she told The Guardian. "To be an artist is to illustrate the world around you."
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