Amazon A.I. sculpture — the centerpiece of Smithsonian’s FUTURES exhibit

Entertainment

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The Smithsonian is turning 175 in 2021, and to mark the occasion, is opening up the Arts and Industries Building for the first time in nearly 20 years to hold the FUTURES exhibit. In the middle of the exhibit is an Amazon Artificial Intelligence sculpture called “Me + You”.

“Me + You” uses art and technology to create an evolving look at how everyone’s vision of the future blends together. It has over 1600 L.E.D. lights and nine stations with a microphone set at different heights for accessibility. A team of almost 25 people spent over 12,000 hours on the Amazon Web Services (A.W.S.) side, and two years on the design side to put it together.

To interact with the sculpture, a person will walk up to a station, say, “My future is ___,” and then the sculpture will translate that vision of the future into colors and patterns. On the back end, the technology weaved into the piece converts the speech into text, takes the text through a sentiment analysis inside of the Amazon cloud, and then displays those colors.

Swami Sibasubramanian, the Vice President of Amazon A.I., said, “It converts the power of sound to the power of light and showcases all the emotions through it.”

The artist behind the sculpture, Suchi Reddy, explained, “It’s like your own emotional snowflake.”

While people can see their “emotional snowflake” displayed at the station they are looking at, they will then see it displayed in the middle of the sculpture. If multiple people are talking about their future at once, it will blend all of the snowflakes together in the middle.

Reddy said, “In the middle, it puts it all together and keeps this constantly evolving image of our visions of the future.”

As time passes, the sculpture will be able to track data and tell researchers how visions of the future have evolved for the public over certain periods of time.

Sibasubramanian said, “It is like a historical collection of how we as humans feel over time as well, so it is a fascinating manifestation of art and technology.”

The FUTURES exhibit opens on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 10 a.m. and will run through July of 2022. After the exhibit closes, the Me + You sculpture will be relocated to Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington.

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