When Art and Technology work as a Team
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IBM and New-York -based design studio SOFTlab have teamed up to create the first thinking sculpture, inspired by Gaudí and developed with IBM’s Watson cognitive technology for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Watson learns Gaudí
To help design the sculpture, Watson was taught about the history and style of Gaudí and the architecture of Barcelona through volumes of images, literary works, articles, and even music. From these references, Watson helped to uncover critical insights on patterns in Gaudí’s work—like crabs, spiders, and color palettes—that the design team didn’t initially associate with Gaudí. The resulting four-meter-tall sculpture features a structural surface made of over 1200 unique aluminum parts and is unmistakably reminiscent of Gaudí ’s work both in look and feel, yet entirely distinct. The sculpture was on display from February 27 to March 2 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where it interacted with visitors by changing shape in real-time, in response to sentiments from Twitter.
Few Questions for one of the Creators
To learn more about the sculpture, ArchDaily was given to opportunity to speak with IBM Watson Manager Jonas Nwuke.
Why was Gaudi’s work in particular chosen to inspire the project?
Jonas Nwuke: Architects at SOFTlab knew Mobile World Congress 2017 would be hosted in Barcelona, which sparked them to create something they had never done before. The SOFTlab team worked with Watson through the inspiration of legendary Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi to create a sculpture alive with data. Antoni Gaudi was an iconic architect that shaped the city of Barcelona with his avant-garde architecture that was light years ahead of its time. In turn, the city of Barcelona heavily shaped the work he created. SOFTlab wanted to work with Watson to bring this approach from the past to the present.
Approximately what percentage of the project decisions were made by Watson, as opposed to IBM and SOFTlab designers?
Watson acted as a guide throughout the design process, uncovering insights from Gaudi’s work to inspire the architects, rather than making decisions on its own. Watson’s ability to process volumes of information from images and documents sparked new ideas and helped the architects to reimagine their construction. Our vision for Watson has always been to use cognitive computing to augment, rather than replace, human intelligence.
Besides the crab and spider references, were there any other particularly interesting ideas or connections that Watson created?
Watson’s analysis of thousands of Gaudi-inspired works helped the team pick unique, transformative colors—ultramarine blue, jade green, yellow and orange—which in turn helped SOFTlab select the iridescent dichroic film that brings the sculpture to life. Gaudi’s work brings about clear themes like waves, undulations and arches. With Watson, the designers were able to see themes that weren’t as obvious previously, such as candy and shells, in addition to crabs and spiders. These elements helped inspire the hanging chains and funnels of the sculpture’s design […]