Salvador Dali lobster phone uses AI to answer museum visitors' questions: NPR

Ask Dalí at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, visitors can talk to the famed surrealist artist through an AI-generated version of his voice.

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen/Farewell Silverstein & Partners


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Martin Pagh Ludvigsen/Farewell Silverstein & Partners

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Ask Dalí at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, visitors can talk to the famed surrealist artist through an AI-generated version of his voice.

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen/Farewell Silverstein & Partners

Salvador Dalí was known for his surreal artwork featuring melting clocks and rugged desert backdrops, his eccentric behavior, such as driving a car full of cauliflower, and his gravity-defying mustache.

He was also known for answering questions in cryptic ways. In 1966, when a interviewer at the CBC asked the artist if he thought he was crazy, Dalí's response was: “Dalí is almost crazy. But the only difference between crazy people and Dalí is that Dalí is not crazy.”

Now, visitors to the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, have the opportunity to ask any question they want to the famous surrealist artist who died in 1989.

Ask Dalía new installation based on a copy of Dalí's iconic Lobster phone sculpture, allows visitors to pick up the crustacean-shaped receiver, ask a question and hear Dalí's answer. The artist's voice, which speaks in heavily accented English, is made possible by generative artificial intelligence.


The Dalí Museum
YouTube

“Why are the bells melting?” is an example of a question someone asks in a promotion reel for the installation, which opened on April 11. “My dear questioner! Do not think that the bells are merely melting. Imagine them as a great dream.”

Bringing Dalí's voice to life through AI

According to Goodbye Silverstein & Partners, the San Francisco-based advertising agency that collaborated with the Dalí Museum on the installation, the artist's AI voice was trained using voice samples from archival interviews Dalí conducted in English throughout his career. (He spoke four languages ​​– Catalan, Spanish, French and English – sometimes interchangeably.)

The underlying model is OpenAI's GPT-4. Because GPT-4 is trained on virtually all publicly available text, this model contains extensive information about Dalí, an artist with a large Internet presence. The Dalí Museum also selected English translations of Dalí's writings into other languages, including his own Mystical Manifesto, Diary of a genius And The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.

“These formed the basis of Dalí's words and tone of voice through careful, rapid engineering, refinement and testing,” said Martin Pagh Ludvigsen, director of creative technology and AI at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, in an email to NPR.

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Visitors speak to AI Salvador Dalí via the “lobster phone” at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen/Farewell Silverstein & Partners


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Martin Pagh Ludvigsen/Farewell Silverstein & Partners

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Visitors speak to AI Salvador Dalí via the “lobster phone” at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen/Farewell Silverstein & Partners

Ludvigsen said the AI ​​Dalí has ​​answered more than 3,000 questions so far. “People ask Dalí big questions about life, love and death,” Ludvigsen said, adding that he can follow the AI's answers, but not the visitors' specific questions. The AI ​​“talks about it often [Dalí’s] woman Gala when she spoke about love: 'My marriage to Gala was a beautiful tapestry of love, beyond the binaries of mortal understanding', just popped up in the tool.

Ludvigsen said the AI ​​has also responded to questions about why humans kill animals: “A question steeped in existential dread and yet trivial in the grand canvas of the cosmos. We kill animals perhaps because we are trapped in a labyrinth of primal instincts and modern desires. a surreal dance of survival and supremacy.”

On why there is so much darkness in the world: “Challenge the universe with deeper questions, like why do shadows celebrate the sun? Shadows celebrate the sun because they are the silent music of the absence of light. Every shadow is a dark fingerprint of the universe, revealing the hidden contours of time and space.”

Another common topic, according to Ludvigsen, is the Lobster phone yourself. Dalí made at least ten of the objects in the 1930s. The work is made up of an old-fashioned rotary telephone and a plaster lobster. Some versions are all white – the Dalí Museum in St Petersburg owns one – while others, like the one at The Tate in London, have a black telephone with a red lobster.

From Dalí to DALL-E

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Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali (1904-1989) is pictured in December 1964.

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Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali (1904-1989) is pictured in December 1964.

Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This is the latest in a series of technology-infused installations at the Dalí Museum. The AI ​​installation will take place from 2019 Dalí is alive allowed visitors to interact with Dalí's likeness on a series of screens throughout the museum. The interactive installation has been in existence since last year Dream carpet has allowed visitors to create original digital paintings based on a text description of a dream.

Dalí scholar Elliott King, an associate professor of art history at Washington and Lee University who was not involved in the museum's exhibition, said he thought Dalí would have liked this AI-based interpretation of his voice and work, noting that the popular AI image generator DALL-E partly inspired by the artist's name. “He was so interested in scientific advancement,” King said. “I think he would have been really hurt if people were talking on this lobster phone.”

King said he thought the AI-generated voice worked well compared to the museum's previous efforts. “It sounds a lot more like Dalí than anything I've heard before,” King said. “His voice is so unusual. He had a very special way of speaking where he would exaggerate certain words.”

But King said some AI responses didn't sound authentic to Dalí's creative language. King quoted the “Why Do the Bells Melt?” question, and the answer to it: 'Imagine it as a huge dream', as an example. “That's a little vague,” King said. “He'll never just say something mundane like that. It'll always be much more action-packed, much more exciting than just the ordinary thing someone might say.”

King said that in Dalí's 1934 book The conquest of the irrationalDalí describes the melting timepieces as “the soft, extravagant, lonely, paranoid-critical Camembert of time and space.” “To be fair, Dalí changed his interpretations of the gentle bells many times throughout his life,” King said. “In the 1950s they were atomic; in the 1960s they were predicters of DNA. But to say they are part of a 'huge dream' sounds almost too obvious.”

King also said that Dalí would never use the word “hello” when introducing himself, which the AI ​​model does when the museum visitor picks up the lobster phone to talk to the AI ​​surrealist. “That word sounds so strange coming from his voice,” King said. “He always said 'Bonjour!' – always the French – even to say goodbye.”

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