MIAD students working artificial intelligence to create art

NOW: MIAD students working artificial intelligence to create art


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There's been a recent explosion of headlines about advancements in artificial intelligence technology, or AI. Now students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design are learning firsthand about the good and the bad the technology may have for the world.

Ben Dembroski, Managing Director of the Emerging Technologies Center at MIAD spends his days surrounded by 3D printers and computers. These days his students are learning to use AI in the field of art.

“We've been looking at AI for several years now sort of bubbling in the surface. We've been seeing things coming up from different companies, the especially the DALL-E image generation stuff,” said Dembroski.

It started when Rapid Prototyping Technician Kayle Karbowski signed up for the educator's tools for various AI engines, like the image generator DALL-E Mini.

“So, the second I got it, I started messing with it and like the next day I went into work and said to a student, like give me a picture of your sculpture, and let's put it through DALL-E and see what happens,” said Karbowski.

“I'm currently working on my thesis, which uses AI in a few different ways. I mostly work in sculpture," said Jo Willis, a Senior Fine Arts Major, “I've been like putting in some of my notes from critique and asking it to, like generate sculptures based off of that."

Willis says they’ve been their work and generating images that illustrate new design concepts they might’ve not thought of on their own.

“I’ll ask it to like, give me a material and a form. And sometimes we'll ask it to give me like steps on how to make that. And I'm still kind of in the like, beginning stages of using that in my practice. I haven't actually made a sculpture based off of it,” said Willis, explaining that they might soon however.

"If AI was an automobile, this is like some steam power. This is not even Model T level type of technology,” said Dembroski explaining how new this is.

"This space’s job is to look at new technologies as they're swirling out coming out of the world and we get them in front of students before it gets baked into our curriculum,” said Karbowski.

Another student utilizing AI is Melvin Hood, a senior taking a minor in digital media production, who uses AI to create animation.

"I mostly utilize AI through motion capture. So, I make 3d animations and I take I use AI that can take a flat video and turn that into animation data,” said Hood.

Hood says for example, a dance in a viral video can suddenly be recreated in his work, without the difficult process of having an actor wear motion capture gear and recreate the movement.

"It definitely opens the possibilities of what I can imagine and put on screen. Because when you're working with motion capture, you're limited by your space. You're limited by what your actor is capable of,” said Hood.

AI isn’t all about creating art for these students however, other students like Sophomore James Hill uses AI to help with class work.

"I use AI in almost every piece of work that I do," said Hill, explaining how it reacts when he gives it his syllabus," it kind of gets an idea of what my class expectations are. And from there, I'll feed it homework assignments and it'll, I'll ask it to generate a list a task list for me to complete"

He says while he was a good student before, AI has helped him organize his studies in a new, and intelligent, way.

"Based on that I've gotten 100 In every single class this semester,” said Hill.

Not everyone is on board right away however.

“Some students are really resistant to it, I think, because of what they've like heard on the internet, about how it's bad,” said Karbowski.

Stories about how AI could be used by students to cheat by writing their papers, or how numerous artists have had their art taken without permission and added to databases that AI use to generate images, images that look a lot like the art they make a living on.

“I think a lot of the fear comes from not understanding how AI works or what it does,” said Karbowski.

Dembroski says AI works a lot like a human mind, comparing it to how Instagram effects how people take pictures.

“We have all these people uploading millions and millions of images, and we're all looking at those images. So, when I go out and I take a photograph, I'm being influenced by all the Instagram images that I've seen, that's essentially the same thing that these AI engines are doing,” said Dembroski, explaining how this is closely in line with how artists do all their work.

To be more specific about how AI works, an AI database is formed by collecting and labeling vast amounts of data and training machine learning algorithms on that data to enable the AI system to make decisions based on pattern recognition and extrapolation.

At the very least, that’s the description the AI engine ChatGDP gave me when I asked it.

That data comes from real people however.

Dembroski says in the coming decades, laws like copyright will need to adapt to the changing times, something students are already aware of.

"For me, this brings up the conversation of like, how should we protect artists because artists are already having their work stolen online, in a lot of different ways. And this is just, like a new way that this is happening,” said Willis.

They say AI is a tool to enhance human ability, not to replace it.

"AI is really a tool for the better. And we need people who understand it to be the ones to legislate it."

As for the cheating issue, Dombrowski has more thoughts on that front.

“I don't see why they wouldn't be,” said Dembroski when asked if he thinks students are using AI text generators to cheat.

Dembroski says whether it’s paying someone to write your essay, stealing answer sheets, or yes, having AI write your paper for you, some students will always cheat.

“I would imagine that it's happening but I don't think it's happening on any bigger scale than any other type of cheating or plagiarism tends to happen. particularly here in MIAD, our students are really invested in their own education,” said Dembroski.

He says it’ll likely be less of a problem if students have to pay to use a-i engines in the future, a likely situation according to Dembroski, and teachers already have some tools to detect a-i generated work.

The bigger picture according to Dembroski is how AI will change how we all work.

“AI is an automation powerhouse. So, if you have a job that can be automated, there's a good chance that it may displace that type of role. But the other thing that happens with all technologies is that other opportunities present themselves,” said Dembroski.

Opportunities that students at MIAD seem to be ready for.

"I'm not sure if AI will ever be able to fully automate art because it's learning based off of like what we're creating and it needs something to base itself off of,” said Willis.

"[People should] try to be encouraged in the fact that you are human you do have that element of you know what you want to do you know the message you want to send you know the story you want to tell.” said Hood.

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