Robot artist freed from Egyptian custody after espionage fears

·2 min read
Ai-da’s technology enables her to use the cameras implanted in her eyes to translate what she sees into fine art - David Parry/PA Wire
Ai-da’s technology enables her to use the cameras implanted in her eyes to translate what she sees into fine art - David Parry/PA Wire

The world’s first robotic artist has been released from Cairo Airport after 10 days in custody.

Border guards felt the humanoid, named Ai-da, posed a security risk as she had cameras in her eyes, but they freed the UK-made creation in time for an art show at the Pyramids.

The “security issues” were thought to include worries that she was part of a wider espionage plot, in part because she had a modem, and a potential enemy of the state.

“I can ditch the modems, but I can’t really gouge her eyes out,” Aidan Meller, Ai-da’s creator, told the Guardian before her release.

Ai-da has created a clay sculpture based on the riddle of the Sphinx, which is part of the first contemporary art exhibition at the Pyramids in thousands of years.

Ai-da, the world's first AI robot artist - Jamie Lorriman
Ai-da, the world's first AI robot artist - Jamie Lorriman

The Forever Is Now exhibition showcases works by 10 artists including Stephen Cox, Alexander Ponomarev and Lorenzo Quinn.

Mr Meller, who unveiled Ai-da two years ago, has travelled to some of Britain’s most famous exhibitions alongside her.

The robot has also featured in BBC documentaries and participated in a TED talk.

Ai-da is named after the computing trailblazer Ada Lovelace and was developed by a team of experts including roboticists, psychologists and art experts.

Ai-da's technology enables her to use the cameras implanted in her eyes to translate what she sees into fine art. The project is updated as advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are made.

Mr Meller hopes the exhibition will generate discussions around the rise of AI and described her detainment as “ironic”.

He said the goal of her creation and artwork is to “highlight and warn of the abuse of technological development”, but she was being held because of this.

“She is an artist robot, let’s be really clear about this. She is not a spy.”

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