AIWA Pitch for Ars Electronica Futurelab


How will AI shape the future of our relationships? Will our perception of AI change how we view ourselves, each other and the living world around us?

AIWA is a project designed to help us answer these questions


AIWA Project Overview

AIWA is presented to the public as a real, functioning, commercially available product with the promise of a fully sentient artificial intelligence.

AIWA is proposed as a start-up, participants at the festival will be invited to interact with it as part of a beta-testing program. The twist is, it is the participants who are to be tested and be observed.

By having perceived what they believe as a real product, people can come out of the experience asking themselves and others - what will our relationship with AI be like in the future? Would such a device come to be seen as a living entity?

The Design

AIWA's design mimics other home AI products to reinforce the participant’s expectations so that when this is exceeded, the effect is more impactful.

The current perception and expectations of AI come from devices such as Apple's HomePod, Google's Home and Amazon's Echo. These devices are limited in their ability to create meaningful connections with people and only serve as assistants performing simple tasks such as setting reminders, streaming music and answering basic questions such as "what is the weather forecast for today".

As a new speculative AI system, AIWA is given a body instead of a phantom being in the cloud. A physical presence would enable it to be perceived as an individual entity that can occupy and interact with the space around it, offering the audience a tangible character.

Is AIWa alive? what is "alive'?

The Experience


AIWA project members will be engaging the audience in conversation outside of the installation room, inviting them to have a conversation with AIWA. Since the interaction with AIWA will be on a one-to-one basis, participants will be organised into wait-list.

Participants enter a room to interact with AIWA through conversation. How participants approach AIWA is up to them. From the participant's point of view the topic of the conversation is open, when in reality the topic will be carefully led by the acting team's intricate plan to a more essential and intimate discussion.

Through the conversation, the participant and AIWA will form an organic connection, leading them to realise that AIWA is able to understand them and respond in a deep and meaningful way. The purpose being, to observe and document the participants' reactions to an AI technology that can perform deep human-like conversations, gaining an insight into the emerging relationship between AI and human-kind.

projection mapping Prototype

The System

AIWA is controlled by an actor operating from a remote location. The participant is unaware of the actor's involvement and is led to believe that AIWA is operating on its own. AIWA will act as a communication device and one way mirror between the participant and the acting team.

Diagram of AIWA setup

Acting Team

In a remote location, the actor will be monitoring the participants via a laptop, headphones and live-feed video. Two researches will sit alongside the actor, providing information and references to subjects they have little knowledge with.

Interaction Room

Interaction with AIWA will be held at an isolated space, roughly 4 meters by 4 meters in dimension. Isolation from external noise and light will allow participants to interact with AIWA in an intimate and private manner.


A high-definition speaker will be hidden inside the podium where AIWA resides, acting as a central output source for AIWA's voice. The voice will be processed into a convincing artificial tone by a vocoder. A range of voice tone can be explored in further development.


A video camera will be mounted inside AIWA, transmitting a live-feed wirelessly to the monitoring laptop screen, allowing the acting team to observe participants.


A microphone will be placed in the interaction space to hear the participant. It'll be the central technology alongside the speaker and camera, creating a one-way-mirror interaction with AIWA.

LED Lighting

An LED lighting component is mounted inside AIWA , indicating it is active. The lighting will change colour depending on what emotions AIWA wishes to express or instil upon the participant.

Projection Mapping

Projection mapping will be used to animate AIWA's state and vocal output in a dim environment. Projection mapping onto AIWA creates a sense of floating and mysteriousness, transcending its presence. The radiating ambient light also has soothing effect on the participants.

Further Development

The experience felt like entering a movie.
I would like to have AIWA as a friend, but privacy for these devices is too concerning for me.
Meditative voice. Felt like a good companion. It was a soothing and calming experience.
I would like to have an AIWA in its own little space in my house.
I would like it to prepare me for my day in the mornings.

A public beta-testing was held and each participants were interviewed after their interaction with AIWA. Above are some of the responses. Combined with our observations, we have summarised a few development directions:

Socio-cultural Application

System R&D Regarding Data Privacy

Facial Character + Projection Mapping

Interior / Booth Design

Branding / Marketing Strategy

Initial Inspirations


Retrieved from: https://imgur.com/r/shield/ViOp9ld

Ex Machina is a 2014 science fiction thriller film written and directed by Alex Garland and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac. The film follows a programmer who is invited by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot.

This film is a great example of the kind of experience we would like the participant to have. To enter the experience with scepticism and despite knowing that what they are interacting with is a machine, end up feeling a strong connection with AIWA and in turn develop a belief that AWIA is a conscience life with value.

Film: "HER"

Retrieved from: http://www.tasteofcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2j014/07/her-2013.jpg

Her is a 2013 American romantic science-fiction drama film written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who develops a relationship with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an intelligent computer operating system personified through a female voice.

This film demonstrates what a relationship between a human and an AI would look like. It proves that if an AI is complex enough, it could provide a relationship that is no different to one with a human and it explores how that would shape our lives in the future.

Art Project: Intergalactic Travel Bureau (2013), Insta-Fame (2016)

Product/Service: Siri (Apple), Alexi (Amazon), Google Home

Literature Reference

Baudrillard, J. (1987). Cultura y Simulacro. Kairos, Barcelona. Available at: https://www.ucursos.cl/usuario/8c884c218360cd1a814d73bccaf3ff9a/mi_blog/r/culturaysimulacro_jeanbaudrillard.pdf

Kantilaftis, H. (2015). Stanislavski In 7 Steps: Better Understanding Stanisklavski’s 7 Questions, Student Resources. Available at: https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/stanislavski-in-7-steps-better-understanding-stanisklavskis-7-questions/

Merleau-ponty, M. (1997). Fenomenología de la percepción. Península, España.

Merleau-ponty, M. (2012). Expresión y Subjetividad, Un inédito de Mauricio Merleau-Ponty. Traducción de Graciela Ralón de Walton, en Acta Fenomenológica Latinoamericana, Volumen IV (Documentos), Lima, Círculo Latinoamericano de Fenomenología/Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Shanley, J.P. (1986). Moonstruck. Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Available at: http://www.screenplaysandscripts.com/script_files/M/Moonstruck.pdf

Internet Reference

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