Do you ever wish that you could meet your idols? I’m not referring to the people who are up and walking around like your Meryl Streep or Barack Obama types. That’s practically easy — you only have to potentially deal with a bunch of highly trained secret service agents or reach worldwide fame. No, what I mean are the ones long since passed, the people you’d have to cross past this mortal plane of existence to reach. Those are the celebs it would be a real “get” to have at your dinner party or take a quick selfie with.
Well now, through the help of AI technology, we can bypass the obvious step of summoning their zombie corpses and just interact with a digital facsimile of them instead. Which is nice — way less clean up and chance of being eaten that way. And starting this weekend, to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Salvador Dalí, the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is unveiling the opportunity for visitors to learn about Dalí’s work by meeting the artist himself.
Dalí Lives is a series of screens throughout the museum that will be on display as a permanent exhibit. This digital Dalí was composited from over 6000 frames of the painter pulled from video and interviews. The museum then partnered with ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco (GS&P) — who used Deepfake artificial intelligence technology to train the algorithm for over 1000 hours to match and learn his facial expressions. The result, combined with an actor body and voice double, is 45 minutes of content and thousands of unique interactions. In your personal conversation with faux Dalí, he may comment about the weather, the latest news, or ask you to take a selfie with him. And then, as seen in the video below, he’ll text it to you.
Reviving dead people, even in digitally recreated moving images, is not without its problematic aspects. Star Wars’ decision to revive long deceased actor Peter Cushing in Rogue One was questioned by many despite having permission from his estate to do so. Which brings to the forefront permission. Dalí left his inheritance to the Kingdom of Spain, and with no living heirs, permission was ceded by the Dalí foundation. So, maybe Dalí would have preferred not to spend all of eternity saying, “lol, you’re crazy!” after you make a good joke — we’ll never know for sure.
As robots and AI become more autonomous and can accomplish increasingly more complex tasks, exhibits like this could pop up more and more. They may or may not hurdle us toward a future best described as a Matrix/Walking Dead mashup, but for now, getting a selfie with one of histories preeminent modern artists is a pretty cool way to get some variety in your social media game.
The exhibit opens on May 11th — Dalí’s 115th birthday. Make sure to wish him a happy one in person.