British-made robot detained by Egyptian authorities over fears it was part of spy plot

·2-min read
Ai-Da is thought to be the world’s first robot capable of drawing people from real life  (PA)
Ai-Da is thought to be the world’s first robot capable of drawing people from real life (PA)

A British-made robot artist which creates paintings using algorithms was detained for ten days by Egyptian security forces on suspicion of being part of a spying plot.

Ai-Da, the humanoid robot artist, was en route to an exhibition next to the pyramids in Giza with her creator Aidan Meller when they were stopped by border agents after arriving in Cairo.

Mr Meller said officials seized the robot and demanded the removal of her eyes which contain cameras which she uses to draw and paint. They were not released until Wednesday.

He told The Guardian shortly before his release: “The British ambassador has been working through the night to get Ai-Da released, but we’re right up to the wire now.

“It’s really stressful.”

Mr Meller added: “I can’t take her eyes out. They are integral (to her drawing, painting and sculpting). She would also look weird without them.”

Manufactured by Engineered Arts in Cornwall, Ai-Da was completed in April 2019. She is thought to be the world’s first robot capable of drawing people from real life and her paintings have featured in the V&A, the London Design Museum and the Tate Modern.

The robot’s body is capable of an expressive range of movements and features realistic silicone skin, 3D printed teeth and gums and eye cameras.

The ‘Forever Is Now’ exhibition in Giza will run until November 7.

Consultancy firm Art D’Égypte in partnership with the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs will present the exhibition.

Also it will proudly display the works of Egyptian artists as well as international artists including Stephen Cox, Lorenzo Quinn, Moataz Nasr and Alexander Ponomarev.

Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, founder of Art D’Egypt, said: “The pyramids have a long, illustrious history that has fascinated and inspired artists from all over the world.

“I’m thrilled to share what will be an unforgettable encounter with the union of art, history and heritage.”

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