AI: Past & Future at the Wired AI: Pulse conference and AI More than Human, Barbican
London, 22 June 2019
This year we’ve really immersed ourselves in the world of AI, or so we thought. Working on our campaign for Ai-Da the robot, the first AI robot artist, we got to grips with algorithms, machine learning and how AI could shape the future of creativity, improve our healthcare services and map poverty to solve key social issues.
At Wired Pulse: AI, held at the Barbican centre alongside their AI More than Human exhibition and part of Tech Week, we experienced a unique day focused on the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on human experience. We witnessed Ai-Da the robot drawing intrigued onlookers, while being photographed by Eva, a selfie robot you can soon expect to see at weddings and corporate events; and a robotic bar, mixing elaborate cocktails with elegant bright white mechanical arms.
At the end of a day of debates about AI facial recognition, privacy and telecommunications, featuring the likes of Terah Lyons, Founding Executive Director, Partnership on AI; and Vishal Chatrath, CEO & Co-founder of Prowler.io, we moved firmly into the realm of AI for creativity, with musician and artist Reeps One (aka Harry Yeff). Working with Professor Sophie Scott of University College London’s Neurological Department and Nokia Bell Labs, professional polymath and beatboxer Reeps One has developed ‘See Sound’, a generative artwork experience that creates sound sculptures based on the human voice. Users interact with the artwork by using their voice to trigger different visual constructions, creating elaborate 3D sculptures rendered on screen, that are completely unique to their creator. When Reeps himself launches into a beat box performance See Sound creates before our eyes a futurist, metallic orb, that punches out in layers in reaction to the music.
With the future of AI well and truly in our minds, we entered the Barbican’s exhibition AI More than Human to travel back to the very beginnings of AI technology and our relationships with it. From clay figurines dating back to the late Jomon period (c.2500 – 1200 BCE) to Ada Lovelace, the first female computer scientist to create a prototype of a digital computer in 1842 (she is the namesake of Ai-Da the AI robot artist); and the first AI robot dog AIBO, created by Sony in 1999; the history of artificial intelligence, avatars and robots is a rich tapestry with strong links to storytelling and religion, as well as science. The culmination of the exhibition involves a descent into the Barbican basement, where teamlab has created ‘What a loving and Beautiful World’ an installation that transforms the room into an interactive painting that reacts with colour, light and shapes including cascades of flowers and butterflies when participants sweep their hands over the walls.
AI clearly has a very central part to play in our future, including in how we express ourselves creatively, but this is certainly not the beginning, AI has been part of our existence for longer than we realised.