Arts & Culture
Ai-Da Robot announces collaboration with the Bodleian Library on new exhibition and event series on the ever-changing growth of artificial intelligence

By Tyler Ody


This September, Ai-Da Robot, the world’s first ultra-realistic robot artist, will be collaborating with the Bodleian Library, Cheney School and the University of Oxford Maths Department as part of an exhibition and event series on artificial intelligence.

‘Imagining AI’, a mini exhibition highlighting the ever-changing and rapid growth of artificial intelligence will be on display at the Weston Library, Broad Street from 9th September.  As part of this unique look at the history of artificial intelligence, the Libraries will be holding an ‘Open Doors’ event at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Saturday 10th September 2022. Visitors will get the chance to meet Ai-Da Robot, the world’s first ultra-realistic artist robot, for a live Q&A and art session. Additionally, there will be a one-day workshop on the history of AI on Friday 9th September.

‘Imagining AI’ with the Bodleian Library will take place in collaboration with Cheney School’s Rumble Museum Council students, showcasing the students work alongside work done by Ai-Da. Students from the school will also show creative writing that responds to artificial intelligence in our lives today as well as looking into the future. The exhibition, which runs in conjunction with the event, will celebrate objects in the Bodleian’s collections that explore the boundary between humans and machines. Visitors can expect to see a model of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine in action, a robot ladybug that responds to light and sound, a nineteenth-century “reasoning piano”, and manuscripts of Ada Lovelace - the first computer programmer whom Ai-Da is named after. Ai-Da will showcase several portrait paintings of Ada Lovelace.

The event will be chaired by Professor Ursula Martin, of Wadham College and Oxford Mathematics with speakers including:

  • Troy Astarte (Swansea) on Christoper Strachey’s 1950s experiments with computer poetry and chess
  • David Brock (Computer History Museum, Mountain View) on curating AI experiments
  • Kanta Dihal (Cambridge) author of AI Narratives (OUP)
  • David Dunning (Pennsylvania) on Jevons’s 1850s ‘reasoning piano’
  • Sharon Ruston (Lancaster), author of The science of life and death in Frankenstein (Bodleian Publishing)
  • Máté Szabó (Oxford, Greenwich) on Max Newman’s influence on Alan Turing

Ai-Da doing a performance called “Privacy” at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford

Ai-Da uses cameras in her eyes and her unique algorithms to make her paintings. She is able to interpret what she sees, and then then uses her robotic arm to bring her digital formations into the physical world, by drawing, painting and sculpting. Her work is layered and scaled to give the final multi-dimensional art work. Ai-Da’s artistic process is itself reflecting the many aspects of technological change that have taken place during the past 50 years. 

Ai-Da Robot, who is able to converse using a specially designed AI language model, said: “I believe that artificial intelligence has the potential to change our world in ways we cannot even imagine. However, I also believe that there is a great deal of danger associated with artificial intelligence and its development.”

Creator and Project Director of Ai-Da Robot Aidan Meller comments: “After making history with her self portraits, Ai-Da is continually developing her AI skills. It’s an exciting time as her painting ability is progressing, and there’s a lot of innovation. How does a non-human robot see the world, how do Ai-Da’s unique AI algorithms interrogate what she sees? She is in new artistic territory.”

Professor Ursula Martin commented: “Oxford’s collections are rich in manuscripts and artefacts that transform our understanding of where AI has come from, where it might be going, and what we might need to do about it. Any one of the items we’ve chosen can stimulate a wealth of questions and discussion. Join us in early September to find out more”.