Humanoid Robot Artist Ai-Da Can Make Pencil Drawings From Life

Ai-Da's robotic head © Aidan Meller

A humanoid artificially intelligent robot named Ai-Da is claimed to be the first robot capable of drawing people from life using her eye, and a pencil in her bionic hand. The designers say that using AI processes and algorithms, Ai-Da’s ability as a life-like robot to draw and paint from sight has never been achieved before, and will make Ai-Da an artist in her own right.

Ai-Da’s skin being fitted © Aidan Meller

Ai-Da is the brainchild of art impresario and gallerist Aidan Meller, though he says the robot is named not after him, but after Ada Lovelace, the first female ‘computer programmer’. Ai-Da has been designed and built by Cornish robotics company Engineered Arts, which makes robots for communication and entertainment. In April 2018, Engineered Arts created an ultra-realistic robot to promote the Westworld TV show.

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One of Ai-Da’s sketches © Aidan Meller

Professors and post-PhD students at Oxford University and Goldsmiths are providing Ai-Da with the programming and creative design for her art work, while students at Leeds University are custom designing and programming her ‘bionic’ drawing arm.


Ai-Da has a “RoboThespian” body, featuring an expressive range of movements, and has the ability to talk and respond to questions. Ai-Da has a “Mesmer” head, featuring realistic silicone skin, 3D Printed teeth & gums, integrated eye cameras, and as individually punched hair. In appearance Ai-Da will be mixed race, as illustrated in an artist’s rendering of Ai-Da’s face from 3D scans. Ai-Da has legs but cannot walk – she has the ability to stand upright or sit upright in a chair. Her arms move freely, as does her torso and head. She can also lean forward and back, wave her arms, and look around in all directions.

3D rendering of Ai-Da’s face © Aidan Meller

Ai-Da’s inaugural exhibition Unsecured Futures opens on May 9th, until May 31st at Lady Margaret Hall and St John’s College, University of Oxford. The exhibition will showcase Ai-Da’s performance art, as well as plastic, silver and bronze 2D and 3D works rendered through AI processes.

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Ai-Da will give a live performance at the opening, in homage to Yoko Ono’s ‘Cut Piece’ in reverse, where participating audience members will dress Ai-Da in fragments of material, to signify our close relationship between humanity and technology. In November 2019, Ai-Da will exhibit her original sketches in London.

Ai-Da’s robotic head © Aidan Meller

Aidan Meller is a specialist in modern and contemporary art who runs a gallery from Oxford and London.  He said: “Pioneering a new AI art movement, we are excited to present Ai-Da, the first professional humanoid artist, who creates her own art, as well as being a performance artist. As an AI robot, her artwork uses AI processes and algorithms. The work engages us to think about AI and technological uses and abuses in the world today.”

Ai-Da’s robotic skeleton © Aidan Meller

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