Watch A Robot Create Disturbingly Good Artistic Self-Portraits

Ai-da is a robot that is proving that artificial intelligence can be quite creative through her striking self-portraits.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

As technology advances, robots are used in everything from healthcare to space exploration. But now, they are breaking into areas long thought of as uniquely human-like art and imagination. For instance, Ai-Da the robot has been specially programmed to be creative and is already showcasing several self-portraits at London’s Design Museum.

Ai-Da is the result of a collaboration between robotics firm Engineered Arts and experts at the University of Oxford, who develop AI algorithms. The robot, famous for its self-portraits, can see with the help of cameras in the eye area which connects to a computer vision system. This is then interpreted by an algorithm meaning Ai-Da can draw someone standing before her with the help of her metal hand.

Named after Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician widely regarded as the first computer programmer, Ai-Da has a silicone head and torso. The AI also rocks several different hairstyles, Nerdist reports. The robot has even given a TEDx Talk via a computerized voice, where she talks about her self-portraits. She also examines what her art means for humanity and the future of artificial intelligence.

Interestingly, the robot has been programmed not to reproduce its self-portraits work so each creation is unique. Speaking to EuroNews, Ai-Da’s creator and gallery director Aidan Meller explained that the portraits are a combined layering technique. “There’s drawing, there are algorithms, and its responses to it,” he told the publication.

He added that photographs are also taken into consideration when the robot creates self-portraits. “It’s a combination of very, very different types of techniques. And you’re looking through those layers,” Meller continued. Ai-Da’s paintings, which are on display in the Design Museum, have been created through a blend of brushstrokes, artificial intelligence, and some help from the human hand.

Priya Khanchandani, who leads curatorial at the London-based museum, said bringing the robot into the museum and displaying her self-portraits poses some interesting questions about creativity like, can a robot create art? She explained that these are questions that people don’t ask in day-to-day life. Even though everyone interacts with technology all the time.

Aida in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

If this is your first time reading about the robot whose self-portraits are famous, but the name Ai-Da sounds super familiar, there’s a simple explanation. The fourth season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D introduced viewers to a similar AI named Aida. Initially known as A.I.D.A, the robot was created as an artificial intelligent digital assistant.

But as the story progresses Aida decides that she wants to be real and transforms herself and the world around her to suit her selfish purposes. She even declares herself Madame Hydra and gains human emotions and inhuman powers, making her a formidable foe and one of the series’ best villains. Hopefully, the real-life Ai-Da doesn’t have any aspirations of world domination and sticks to robot self-portraits.

While movies and television have long posed questions about what artificial intelligence means for humanity, hopefully, real-world experimentation doesn’t lead our world down a dark path. Meanwhile, anyone can check out Ai-Da and her robot self-portraits which are still on show at London’s Design Museum.