Ai-Da, a robot that uses artificial intelligence to create art, was detained by Egyptian customs over fears ‘her’ electronics could contain spy tools
The device was held for 10 days as the British embassy worked with Cairo on the matter.
“The Embassy is glad to see that Ai-Da the artist robot has now been cleared through customs,” the UK’s embassy in Cairo said in a statement.
“Customs clearance procedures can be lengthy, and are required before importation of any artworks or IT equipment.”
Aidan Meller, the robot’s creator, said customs officials had shown concern that Ai-Da’s modem and cameras could contain spy electronics.
Meller offered to remove the modem, but said the cameras were essential to Ai-Da’s ability to paint.
“I can ditch the modems, but I can’t really gouge her eyes out,” he told the Guardian.
He said the British ambassador had been “working through the night to get Ai-Da released” and that it would now be difficult to prepare the robot for the exhibition on Thursday.
Ai-Da is scheduled to be part of the first-ever exhibition of contemporary art at the 4,500-year-old Giza pyramids.
The “Forever Is Now” exhibition is to run until 7 November, featuring Ai-Da along with one of her sculptures, an interpretation of the riddle of the Sphynx in Greek mythology.
The riddle is: what goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening? A human going through the stages of life, from a baby to old age using a walking stick. The robot’s interpretation of this is a sculpture of Ai-Da with three legs.
Since being completed in 2019 Ai-Da has given media interviews and displayed art at the Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.