Animating Artificial Intelligence at The Tech Musuem

New exhibit, 'Animaker,' helps teach kids, grown-ups about machine learning
Tech Museum's new artificial intelligence exhibit, 'Animaker,' teaches children and machines alike.

While parents might see a budding Michelangelo in the Lego creations of their kids, others likely find it difficult to discern any form in the meandering block structures that spring from the minds of children. So, it would be understandable to also doubt a machine's ability to recognize the intention behind the artistic representations of tots. However, that day may soon be at hand.

The Tech Museum of Innovation's newest artificial intelligence-powered attraction demonstrates just how, by pulling visitors into an immersive experience that bridges the realms of technology and art. Titled "Animaker," the new exhibit showcases the capabilities of AI-equipped robots to recognize physical creations and bring them to life through computer-generated animation.

The latest addition to The Tech's media studio of digital experiences—Reboot Reality—"Animaker" stands out from everything else around it. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by faint jungle sounds as they step onto artificial grass. Before them, a projection of a colorful cartoon temple surrounded by palm trees and snaking vines.

Using Lego and Duplo bricks, visitors take their best shot at building one of a number of predetermined animals to see if the computer can identify what they meant to create.

Building an animal out of Lego bricks is easier said than done. I decided to attempt the tortoise. Different visual examples of a selected animal are displayed on a nearby screen to help those (like me) who are stuck on how to start building. While I knew what my block creation was supposed to be, I thought it likely that most would only see a green pyramid.

I placed my completed Lego creation on a rotating platform so it could be scanned in 3D, watching as a visual representation of the scan showed my crude reptile covered in a digital net. I was surprised. Once the scan was complete, a picture of a tortoise popped up on the screen along with the words "Is this your animal?"

The computer doesn't always get it right, though. And when it fails, the scanned image is saved to the machine's database. This introduces more variations of model types that the machine can use to recognize a given animal. Since the exhibit's public opening on June 15, "Animaker" has collected more than 2,000 uploads of model images from visitors.

10am-5pm daily
The Tech Museum

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