The AUTOPORTRAIT installation was held in the Gallery of Cadillac House—home of America's preeminent car manufacturer. It invited visitors to pose for a portrait by ADA, an autonomous drawing robot named after pioneering technologist Ada Lovelace. While playful and entertaining, this project also explored deeper questions about creativity and automation.
The strengths of humans and machines combine to great effect in the installation. ADA draws with speed and precision while conveying warmth and humour through human-like behaviours like tilting her “head” as she studies her subject.
Human+ Machine abilities
We repurposed an industrial welding machine designed for mass manufacturing and gave it new abilities: recognizing human faces and making simple artistic choices. Our custom-built story engine integrated interactive audio, video, lighting and robotics systems in the model's physical design.
“Conceptually, Tellart pulled an automated laborer (one of many, whose sole purpose was to be a step in automotive production) and developed a way for the robot to look back at its creator. We gave the robot a voice, complete with expressive flourishes of movement as it draws its subjects.”
Charlie Ledbetter, Senior Producer at Tellart
• The robot's full name is ADA0002. “ADA” stands for Advanced Drawing Automation and is also a nod to Ada Lovelace, who many consider the first computer programmer. 0002 indicates that this is a second-generation open-source drawing robot developed by Tellart.
• The exhibition was open to the public for a full month in New York City.
• Visitors waited in line for over 2 hours for their turn to have ADA draw them. They were invited to take their poster-sized portraits home.
• A camera positioned behind the drawing pen captured the robot's point of view and projected it onto a huge screen, allowing visitors to follow the focus of ADA's attention.
• ADA was originally a welding robot similar to those found on the assembly lines building Cadillac vehicles.
Tellart in partnership with art publisher Visionaire, with the support of Leaflabs and Palmer Schwartz Agency.