History of Art meets Artificial Intelligence

13 May 2022

As an Alumna of The University of Buckingham, through my M.A. in History of Art, it was delightful to be invited to the ‘Return to Campus’ event on 19 November 2021. Amongst many interesting conversations of that evening were several with Buckingham’s academic staff. On following up the one with Professor Harin Sellahewa I have discovered fascinating information on a world seemingly far-removed from art and, indeed, the foreign languages of my first degree.

Carolyn Hampson visits The School of Computing

Harin kindly invited me to tour his School of Computing on 4 March and to meet the AI (Artificial Intelligence) personalities I had seen in clips on the University’s and twitter sites. The School is impressive with its supply of computing equipment in situ in lecture rooms, enabling students to follow up imparted information immediately in topic-related tasks. A suite, given over to computer games, had appropriate furniture to ensure that long hours in front of a screen can be done in comfort.

The final room contained Spot, the robot dog, and Birdly, the virtual flying machine, (both pictured here). Spot hails from Boston, USA, and can achieve walks which include managing steps. Birdly is
Swiss, a native of Zürich, who can bear a passenger, secured onto the top of his body and wings, and fly virtually over the skyscrapers of New York literally enabling a bird’s-eye view! Their room-mates included an independent arm, ready to render assistance as required. There were also mobile platforms (alarmingly named Jackals) which can replace humans in doing either outside tasks (equipped with heavy-duty tyres), or inside tasks (wearing tyres suitable for travelling over carpet). For the latter, Harin instanced collecting trays from outside hotel guests’ rooms.

And how might the worlds of computing with AI and art history ever collide? Those who have seen the recent ‘Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience’ exhibition, containing the presentation clip with one of his Sunflowers works, already know that art can be faithfully reproduced by a robot.

Thanks to Harin, I am now more enlightened regarding AI and able to appreciate its importance to our lives. His plan for a new Virtual Reality suite is also an exciting prospect for students. The cutting-edge equipment he has acquired is already being put to good use to introduce school pupils to the possibilities of studying at The University of Buckingham where their minds can be stretched to devise machines to assist us all in the future.

– Carolyn Hampson