The new Picasso? Meet Ai-Da the robot artist

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The rubberised head of Ai-Da, a humanoid robot capable of drawing people from life using her bionic eyes and hand, is painstakingly given lifelike features by Mike Humphrey, a specialist at robotics company Engineered Arts, in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain February 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
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A woman interacts with Ai-Da, a humanoid robot capable of drawing people from life using her bionic eyes and hand, at the offices of robotics company Engineered Arts, in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain February 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
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The head of Ai-Da, a humanoid robot capable of drawing people from life using her bionic eyes and hand, is seen in the offices of robotics company Engineered Arts, in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain February 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
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The head of Ai-Da, a humanoid robot capable of drawing people from life using her bionic eyes and hand, is seen in the offices of robotics company Engineered Arts, in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain February 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
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The rubberised head of Ai-Da, a humanoid robot capable of drawing people from life using her bionic eyes and hand, is painstakingly given lifelike features by Mike Humphrey, a specialist at robotics company Engineered Arts, in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain February 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 February 2019
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The new Picasso? Meet Ai-Da the robot artist

  • Cameras in each of her eyeballs recognize human features — she will make eye contact and follow you around the room, opening and closing her mouth as you do

FALMOUTH, England: Can robots be creative? British gallery owner Aidan Meller hopes to go some way toward answering that question with Ai-Da, who her makers say will be able to draw people from sight with a pencil in her bionic hand.
Meller is overseeing the final stages of her construction by engineers at Cornwall-based Engineered Arts.
He calls Ai-Da — named after British mathematician and computer pioneer Ada Lovelace — the world’s first “AI ultra-realistic robot artist,” and his ambition is for her to perform like her human equivalents.
“She’s going to actually be drawing and we’re hoping to then build technology for her to paint,” Meller said after seeing Ai-Da’s prosthetic head being carefully brought to life by specialists individually attaching hairs to form her eyebrows.
“But also as a performance artist she’ll be able to engage with audiences and actually get messages across; asking those questions about technology today.”
Her skeletal robotic head may stand disembodied on a workbench, but her movements are very much alive.
Cameras in each of her eyeballs recognize human features — she will make eye contact and follow you around the room, opening and closing her mouth as you do. Get too close and she’ll back away, blinking, as if in shock.
Ai-Da’s makers say she will have a “RoboThespian” body with expressive movements and she will talk and answer questions.
“There’s AI (artificial intelligence) running in the computer vision that allows the robot to track faces to recognize facial features and to mimic your expression,” said Marcus Hold, Design & Production Engineer at Engineered Arts.
Ai-Da’s makers are using “Mesmer” life-like robot technology for her head, and once finished she will have a mixed race appearance with long dark hair, silicone skin and 3D printed teeth and gums.
“(Mesmer) brings together the development of software mechanics and electronics to produce a lifelike face with lifelike gestures in a small human sized package,” Hold said.
Ai-Da will present her inaugural exhibition “Unsecured Futures” in May at the University of Oxford, and her sketches will go on display in London in November.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 16 June 2019
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
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