Machine Learning

This is what AI sees and hears when it watches "The Joy of Painting."

Computers don't dream of electric sheep, they imagine the dulcet tones of legendary public access painter, Bob Ross. Stochastic artist and engineer Alexander Reben has produced an incredible feat of machine learning in honor of the late Ross, creating a mashup video that applies Deep Dream-like algorithms to both the video and audio tracks. The result is an utterly surreal experience that will leave you pinching yourself.

"A lot of my artwork is about the connection between technology and humanity, whether it be things that we're symbiotic with or things that are coming in the future," Reben told me during a recent interview. "I try to eek a bit more understanding from what technology is actually doing." For his latest work, dubbed "Deeply Artificial Trees", Reben sought to represent "what it would be like for an AI to watch Bob Ross on LSD."

To do so, he spent a month feeding a season's worth of audio into the WaveNet machine learning algorithm to teach the system how Ross spoke. Wavenet was originally developed to improve the quality and accuracy of sounds generated for text-to-speech systems by directly modelling the original waveform using each sample point (up to 16,000 every second for 16KHz audio), rather than rely on less effective concatenative or parametric methods.

Read Andrew Tarantola's full article in EnGadget

Technology and Privacy

Alexa, Siri, and Cortana have a new competitor. Meet Lauren.

Eleven million Amazon Echoes sit on kitchen counters today. Most people who own one–or any other smart home speaker–probably don’t spend a lot of time questioning the fact that this always-listening device records data about them and then ferrets it away in a server, where it is used in ways they may never know about. But would we question that arrangement if Alexa were a real person, rather than a device?

That’s the idea Stochastic artist and UCLA assistant professor Lauren McCarthy is putting to the test. This week, McCarthy launched a project called Lauren in which the Los Angeles-based artist embodies a eponymous smart home assistant. For three days, she acts as the brains behind a willing volunteer’s smart home, doing everything from turning on lights to giving advice to just chatting, like a living, breathing Alexa, Cortana, or Siri.

“I’m thinking of myself like a learning algorithm,” she says. “The first day is rough–an early prototype of Lauren–and the future [Lauren] has learned and is more skilled and effective.” To carry out the project, McCarthy installs smart home appliances and cameras all over the home of the willing user. That means she has full control over the lights, music, and temperature, as well as locks, faucets, and even tea kettles and hair dryers...

Read Katharine Schwab's full article in Fast Company

Autonomous Drones

Introducing Icarus 2.
Fly too close to the sun.

Autonomous drone technology in the military sphere is challenging structures of accountability and responsibility. Stochastic artist and creative technologist TroyLumpkin uses drone technology to create art - his graffiti drone, which he hopes will soon be capable of autonomously creating its own artworks, challenges our notions of authorship, creativity and power: Who is the artist, the human or the machine?

Stochastic: Tell us about the Icarus drone project. What do you hope to achieve?

Troy: The Icarus drone is an ongoing experiment in examining automated painting systems as well as collaborative open source hardware initiatives. The drone is made of easily accessible materials. It's a consumer grade camera quadcopter and a micro Arduino with a 3D printed robotic spray system (which allows it to spray work that's larger and more far-reaching than anything that could be achieved with any other tool currently available on the market). Ultimately, I'm looking  to expand the creative reach of the human body, and to raise questions like whether artificial intelligence and computer systems are capable of creating art that humans will appreciate.

Stochastic: What does this mean for artists?

Troy: Aside from reaching previously unreachable surfaces, drone-painting technology begins to examine how the actual labor of art fabrication can be outsourced to autonomous systems. What if the things we created could create art? Would they create art? And if so, who is the author? At the moment, I have little control over the aesthetic with drone paintings, but technically, I retain the underlying authorship.