Leicester’s first ART-AI Festival is launching on Monday with a host of installations, workshops – and even an improv comedy show with a robot.

The festival includes the installation of #LoveApparatus – an AI that has its own Twitter account that you can interact with through @Apparatus_love. For this, the AI will “learn” about love from Twitter messages about people’s love for Leicester (Tweet message with the hashtag #LoveLeics).

#LoveApparatus is learning to analyse tweets sent to it from members of the public – the more tweets it has to its Twitter account, the more it learns and it will respond to its love messages using a projection at the Highcross throughout the festival.

Local school children from Sandfield Close Primary School are also participating in a workshop being run by Anna Fusté, a researcher at MIT Medialab (US) who will use machine learning and augmented reality – super-imposing sounds and graphics – to transform children’s work. Her project, Paper Cubes, that she will be presenting in Leicester for the event is featured in Google’s AR Experiments. Children will also be interacting with her new project HyperCubes, being developed at MIT.

Anna says: “This is a great opportunity to get kids to engage with AR and computational concepts. I am very excited to see how children play with the applications in the workshops and I can’t wait to experience the infinite possibilities that open up where a child can be an artist, a coder and just a kid having fun and learning at the same time.”

ART-AI Festival has been produced by Professor Tracy Harwood, of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Institute of Creative Technologies, working with partners Highcross, Phoenix and artist/curator Luba Elliott, who has also advised the World Economic Forum on the subject. It is being supported by #DMUlocal, which works to share academic expertise with the wider community.

Dr Harwood, Professor of Digital Culture at the Institute of Creative Technologies, said: “Robots and AI have really sparked the public interest in the last couple of years but it’s still largely science fiction that is driving our interest. I am really intrigued to see how people will engage with the #LoveApparatus – it’s a fun way to talk to an AI, but you have to #LoveLeicester (#LoveLeics) to see and hear what it has to say through its Twitter feed (@Apparatus_Love)!”

Alongside the Kitty AI, a video installation that describes how it will rule the World, on display at Phoenix by artist Pinar Yoldas (US), other artists will also be discussing their work, inspiration and next projects at a series of talks held at Phoenix. There will also be a series of films inspired by AI being shown, including the original Ghost in the Shell and AlphaGO. Comedian and creator Piotr Mirowski will perform improvised comedy alongside a robot called A.L.Ex. There will also be the chance to debate how the latest AI technology is affecting society. The full programme is available here: www.art-ai.dmu.ac.uk, with links for event bookings. Installations are open access and anyone can visit at opening times for the Shopping Centre and Phoenix.

The @apparatus_love installation will be at Highcross, and people will can tweet messages of love that may be projected at the shopping centre. It has been developed by Dr Fabrizio Poltronieri of DMU’s IOCT.

Luba Elliott, independent AI artist/curator said: “The ART-AI Festival brings together artists, scientists and researchers both from the local community and from as far away as the United States. Given Leicester’s history of digital arts and diversity, it is the perfect location to showcase, debate and discuss how the latest artificial intelligence technologies are affecting our society.”

Jo Tallack, general manager at Highcross, said: “With the increasing use of digital technology within our everyday lives the importance of raising vital awareness and engaging with the public is of even more importance in developing a greater understanding and awareness of how our futures will involve AI.”

Chris Tyrer, Digital Arts Manager at Phoenix said: “Phoenix is excited to be part of the first ART-AI Festival. Artists exploring the boundary between creativity and technology are central to our programme, offering new perspectives on creativity, culture and society. ART-AI presents different ways of thinking about the present and future of Artificial Intelligence – going beyond the headlines to shed light on how it already underpins much of our digital world.”

ART-AI Festival will run between Monday, 30 April and 13 May at Phoenix Cinema Leicester and Highcross Leicester and most of the events will be free and interactive.

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Great Central, John has been actively involved in Leicester's creative community for over a decade - promoting shows and releasing records under the name Robot Needs Home. He is a director of Handmade Festival, and ex member of the band Maybeshewill.

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