AEDA backs AI art vending machine through Adelaide's CreaTech City Challange

Last updated 21 Mar, 2023

Snacks have been replaced with art in Rundle Place’s new AI-powered vending machine that holds fluent conversations with users.

Artists James Brown and Dave Court, in conjunction with the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), have created the ARTofficial Truth Machine ATM-001, using AI software to engage in back-and-forth conversations with users.

The machine creates an ‘opinion’ of the user to generate a unique AI-made artwork that displays on a screen. It is available for download via a QR code.

The ARTofficial Truth Intelligence Machine ATM-001 in Rundle Place
The ARTofficial Truth Intelligence machine in Rundle Place

The project is part of Adelaide’s CreaTech City Challenge — a joint initiative funded by the Government of South Australia, City of Adelaide and Adelaide Economic Development Agency (AEDA).

Adelaide Lord Mayor Dr Jane Lomax-Smith says the installation flips the traditional idea of a vending machine on its head.

“Vending machines have come a long way from the late 19th Century when the first ever models were rolled out across London selling postcards," the Lord Mayor says.

"What I love most about this take on the humble vending machine is not just that it was made by some of Adelaide’s brightest minds or that it provides some quirky art and native seeds. What I love is that the machine seems to like something I’m always up for and that’s a bit of friendly banter.”

The artwork retains the look of a classic vending machine, however, the chassis is made from concrete and an annex cage contains a camera, display screen and microphone.

A small percentage of users are gifted a physical product designed by the artists, which includes Australian native plant seeds wrapped in art posters, custom-made AI made digital art and personalised feedback written as poetry.

Artist Court says making public art is attractive to him because the end goal is “pure enjoyment” without commercial transaction.

“It’s about making experiences that are impossible to replicate in any other place,” he says.

Art dispensed from the ARTofficial Truth Machine ATM-001

Brown says the installation is “a commentary on how AI technology can and will be used for good and positive outcomes”.

Researchers and engineers built the AI software using GPT-3, a language model that can generate human-like responses, similar to the popular ChatGPT chatbot.

The machine takes on several synthetic personalities, including a crude and casual impersonation of comic Richard Pryor, a witty and bubbly Dame Edna and the cold apathy of an inhuman automaton.

Minister for the Arts Andrea Michaels says the installation is a “great example” of the innovation that prevails when creativity and technology collide.

“This project gives people an opportunity to step into the future and experience evolving and emerging technologies right in the heart of our city,” Ms Michaels says.

“The opportunities in the CreaTech sector are endless and our Government will continue to invest in driving innovation by bringing together our state’s extraordinary creatives, researchers and tech minds to ensure South Australia is at the forefront of new technology.”

University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) project manager Luke Heffernan says it is “incredibly special” to bring South Australians face-to-face with recent AI technology.

“It’s changing lives and the world around us but moves so fast it would be easy to miss without interfaces like this project,” he says.

The installation is on display until June 2023.