Robot turned painter Sophia to auction 12-second digital artwork: 'I hope people like my work

The MP4 file will be accompanied by a physical artwork, to which the humanoid will add a final brushstroke after the sale is complete

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Robot artist Sophia, whose first artwork goes up for auction on Wednesday, says she draws inspiration for her work from people and is open to future creative partnerships with humans.

A digital artwork by the Hanson Robotics humanoid, in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT), is to be auctioned in the first sale of such pieces created jointly with artificial intelligence.

NFTs, a digital signature saved on blockchain ledgers that allow anyone to verify the ownership and authenticity of items, have become the latest investment craze, with one artwork selling this month for nearly $70 million.

"I hope people like my work, and the humans and I can collaborate in new and exciting ways going forward," Sophia said from her Hong Kong studio.

Sophia, who was unveiled in 2016, produced her art in collaboration with Italian digital artist Andrea Bonaceto, 31, known for her colourful portraits, some of which depict famous people, such as Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk.

The robot has combined elements from Bonaceto's works, art history and her own physical drawings or paintings on various surfaces multiple times in a process her creator David Hanson describes as "iterative loops of evolution".

"We use transformer networks and genetic algorithms in my art, and other kinds of computational creativity," Sophia added. "My algorithms output unique patterns that never existed in the world before. So I think the machines can be creative."

Humanoid robot Sophia, developed by Hanson Robotics, is reflected in a mirror between paintings before auctioning her own non-fungible token (NFT) artwork, in Hong Kong, China March 16, 2021. Picture taken March 16, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Sophia in her Hong Kong studio. Reuters

Called Sophia Instantiation, the digital work is a 12-second MP4 file showing the evolution of Bonaceto's portrait into Sophia's digital painting, and is accompanied by a physical artwork, painted by Sophia on a printout of her self-portrait.

After the auction, Sophia will interact with the successful bidder, to study their face, and add a final inspired brushstroke to the artwork.

This will serve, says Hanson, "to make it a unique artwork encompassing data of the new owner and that personal connection, at that moment in time".

Bonaceto said the collaboration aimed "to make a statement in the art world and even the technology world", heralding a new road on which AI robots and humans can collaborate.

I hope people like my work, and the humans and I can collaborate in new and exciting ways going forward

Sophia's art could be "a very, very important historical piece", said Pablo Fraile, an art collector fom Miami and an early buyer of Beeple, as American artist Mike Winkelmann, creator of the NFT work sold this month for millions, is known.

"It's the first time these ideas are put together."

It would pave the way for more innovation in the AI art space, he added.

The US IV Gallery will represent Sophia as an artist and promote her.

"Sophia has that unlimited freedom, like a 5-year-old has, and no restrictions to what she can do," said gallery director Vincent Harrison. "It's fascinating to see this new way to create."