Smithsonian Art Museum Unveils Interactive Voice AI Sculpture
A new interactive sculpture at Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building (AIB) translates spoken words into colors and lights. Artist Suchi Reddy and Amazon Web Services produced the piece, titled “you + me,” for the FUTURES exhibit by linking AWS’ voice AI tech to the sculpture, transforming it with every visitor’s description of the future.
The new sculpture is 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide and situated in the AIB rotunda, where Thomas Edison first introduced electric lights to Washington, D.C. Suchi named me + you as a reflection of “society’s collective conscious” and their thoughts about the future. When visitors come up to the sculpture, they can share their thoughts and feelings about the future, stating “my future look” and filling in their personal ideas. The words are picked up by microphones around the sculpture and sent to the cloud, where AWS uses AI to translate them into corresponding lights and colors matching the themes of the statements.
Reddy and AWS worked on the piece for two years, applying tools like Amazon Transcribe, Amazon Comprehend, and a custom Amazon SageMaker model. Those interested who can’t get to the physical sculpture can play with the algorithm online. The sculpture is covered in thin sheets of LEDs, and light diffusers, along with paper and acrylic tubes to shift the shape and radiance of the piece. The idea is to make art that is always in flux to reflect what the visitors say.
“My original vision for me + you was to bring humanity to technology and create a sense of connectedness across the world, which seems more relevant now than ever after the distance we all felt during the pandemic,” Reddy said in unveiling the artwork. “By working with AWS, I’ve gained a deep appreciation of AI, and I have enjoyed exploring the possibilities it offers as a creative, artistic medium. me + you combines human creativity and computational creativity, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the public responds and can be inspired by this piece.”
The new sculpture is part of a rising trend connecting voice AI and art. It’s not even the first in D.C. An entire voice-interactive museum called Planet Word opened in the city last year. Planet Word mixes art and AI for exhibits like a wall of words sharing the history of English where what visitors say affects which words are spotlighted. There are also exhibits with smart paintbrushes to draw words and a room to practice conversations with speakers of rare languages. The experiments extend to at-home voice AI too. Nvidia recently debuted the GauGAN2 tool, which can turn speech and text into realistic paintings, similar to what Russian voice assistant Yandex offers. The new sculpture focuses on connecting that tech to a more significant, public venue, however.
“me + you allows people to contribute their thoughts and feelings to an interactive piece of artwork through the power of AI. Reddy’s vision and artistry, combined with the power of the cloud, has created an awe-inspiring work of art sure to delight anyone who engages with it,” said Amazon machine learning vice president Swami Sivasubramanian said in a statement. “We are grateful for this opportunity to show just how beautiful and accessible technology can be, and hope this project inspires current and future generations of artists and technologists to collaborate and invent new creations.”