Designer Theo Kummer’s robot is the opposite of a stereotypical AI: instead of algorithms, he programmed the machine to respond to poetry in poetic form, using its hidden sensors to mimic the way humans process language. So while Manta utilizes internet connectivity to allow human creators to write words and tells it exactly what languages to use, it was also designed to train itself from ever-changing input. “Reading poetry is something that, by its very nature, requires a pretty slow-paced exposure,” says Kummer.
The monocle-wearing machine’s poetic abilities are fully functional, having been honed with nine weeks of training. The machine can produce the written form of poetry by observing the movements of the user (using a tilt-shift camera in order to create images that mimic how its limbs respond to music) and then communicating with that user. Though it can “read” human signatures and directly compose poetry by pointing at them on a touchscreen, it can also produce artworks by literally flipping through a notebook, mimicking the way humans tap and highlight a page to trigger a desired design.
While the feature is the most abstract aspect of the machine’s ability to express itself, Kummer has also programmed it to respond to sounds and gestures, also allowing it to compose a song (“Born and Raised”) by playing samples of sounds like dry ice or noise, while the machine “reads” the user’s speech.
Kummer says he was inspired to create the computer program by working on the Last Round android exhibit at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. The clever, loving, loving and AI-like robots there, he says, made him think about creating something that could fill a similar gap between art and science. The (human) visitors to the exhibition, he says, “were kind of blown away by what they saw”: a robot that could literally talk back to them, inspired the idea of making a machine that writes poetry.
Read the full story at Technology Review.
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