Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been leaving its footprints in the arts, and though its involvement can be said to be in the preliminary stages, the future looks exciting. As the arts and creative professions were long thought the exclusive territories of the human mind, AI has now intruded – much to the chagrin of some. The arrival of AI in the art industry is viewed, understandably, with suspicion and insecurity.

However, AI can potentially change the art industry by complementing the artist, improving productivity and output, and expediting creation. Currently, however, AI technology is largely executing the ideas while the artists continue to produce ideas. However, there are instances when technology has been able to compose poems and songs on its own – though the quality can be debated. Already there are apps and websites like Google DeepDream which can create artistic works based on human inputs. (For a similar art experience, see A Tour of Deep Learning Models.)

AI and the Art Industry

It cannot yet be claimed that AI has been redefining the art industry, but several exploits can be cited that point to a definite entry of AI in the arts. Many artists have been accepting AI's offerings and making their products – music, poems, songs or artwork – even better. In the instances where art has embraced AI, it has been a complementary agreement where the artist ideates while the AI executes. The sections below describe three such instances:

  • In November 2017, dancer Kaiji Moriyama played the piano without even placing a single finger on it. The audience was mesmerized as Moriayama danced and the piano played, complementing the dance moves. Sensors attached to Moriyama's back made the amazing event possible, providing input that the AI interpreted and translated to output via the piano. It was amazing that a musical instrument was able to anticipate, match steps and play the appropriate notes.

  • In 2017, an expo on design and innovation was held in Toronto. In the expo, architects had a large and intricate glasswork shaped like a nerve cell. It was suspended in the air and responded to movements by human attendees. The glasswork was exhibited in an old, abandoned soap factory. The audience at the expo was mesmerized as the artwork responded to different audience member movements by changing its light patterns and surround sound output. This amazing exercise was made possible by AI.

  • In an art exhibition in London, in 2017, a group of plastic spheres mesmerized the audience. The plastic spheres would move, dip and rise in groups or individually in the space and respond as the audience made various movements like clapping, lifting their arms or jumping. The audience was amazed, and acknowledged the intelligent responses shown by the spheres. The spheres seemed to mimic human movements. This was made possible by AI.

  • Microsoft’s AI bot allows you to input a written description of a picture and produces an image based on the description. For example, if you need an image of a tiger running through a forest, just write a description and let the bot take it from there. It seems the bot recognizes the words and maps them with images to put them together to form a complete picture.

How AI Is Influencing Artists

AI in the arts industry, in its current state, can at best complement the artists’ efforts – while the future, to be honest, is unknown. To do this, AI uses machine learning technology. AI is given related training data sets based on which it is expected to identify patterns and produce its output. At its current stage, AI is not able to produce something stunning and complex, but something that complements the artists’ works. Take for example AutoDraw, an AI algorithm developed by Google. AutoDraw can produce artwork based on sketches made by an artist. It works based on the autocomplete principle – it guesses, based on the sketches or an outline by the artist, the desired output and offers artwork options. Make no mistake, the output quality is good enough. It can be safely said that artists such as music composers, painters or poets can rely on AI to produce a basic output which can then be expanded or consolidated.

The quality of output produced by various AI applications has been amazing. What is particularly impressive is the speed and accuracy of production. AI has been bringing the good old technology principles of speed, efficiency and precision to the field of art. There are many examples that can be cited to support the argument. (For a more low-tech type of computer art, check out New Generators Put Modern Algorithms to Work on ASCII Art.)

What Lies in the Future?

First, it is important to acknowledge that AI has progressed to a certain stage in terms of creating artwork. AI is driven by machine learning technology which is given data and creates its own algorithm by learning from varied data and identifying patterns. You can say that it is trying to mimic what the human brain does: imagining visuals or compositions and putting them into a certain form. But it still does not think like the human brain, which is why it still complements artists and does not usually create fantastic artwork independently. The next stage is to be able to create independently, but that seems quite a distance to travel. AI is still somewhat of an overhyped technology in the art world.

AI is clearly not poised to overtake or replace human artists anytime soon. Much of the publicity and drum-beating is simply hype. But its role in complementing the artist and its use in creating amazing art must not be undervalued. It is improving efficiency, accuracy and productivity, which is important for the artist.