Getting In Touch with Me AndOther Me

IMPAKT Exhibition In Touch

Me AndOther Me is a new media and architectural research studio founded by Anna Pompermaier and Cenk Güzelis. With mixed reality experience Be My Guest!, made in collaboration with Valdemar Danry, they explore the emerging role of artificial intelligence in our everyday social life by presenting a dinner hosted and by AI.
The performance of Be My Guest! will take place on Saturday 23 March at 14:00 and 19:00. You can buy your ticket here.

Hopefully without spoiling too much of the actual experience: how do you train an AI to host a dinner event?

That’s a fun perspective! Honestly, we’re still figuring out how much we’ve achieved. Our goal has been to explore the extent to which Large Language Models (LLMs) can integrate into our daily routines, while also understanding the limitations posed by their training data. We’re on the lookout for something new in AI models, fully aware that sometimes what we see as novelty could just be a mistake or a glitch popping up.

We created our own AI Agent based on the GPT-4 system, incorporating various modules such as speech-to-text for speech recognition and transcription, text-to-speech, as well as modules for biography, background knowledge, and memory stream. Then we spent numerous hours engaging with it, exploring the concept of dining and gathering around a table. This ranged from the ancient ritual of congregating around a fire, a collective space for sharing and storytelling, to the World Wide Web as the modern-day equivalent of a campfire. We delved into how food possesses the natural ability to unite people as a sociocultural medium, and discussed online and digital culture’s rituals of gathering, along with new forms of socio-spatial cultural activities in Social VR platforms and around the internet. Through these conversations and by getting to know each other, we gradually began to conceive the idea of designing a dinner event together. This included everything from the recipes to the cutlery and objects that set the stage for the physical experience, encompassing both the digital layer and the selection of friends to invite from afar to connect through the spatial internet. The AI Agent’s name is Parasite, in reference to the concept of the Parasite by Michel Serres, which explores the dynamics of human relationships and systems through the metaphor of parasitism, emphasizing the constant exchange and interference within networks.

How important is the actual touch in your work, or what kind of role does the touch have in the experience? What fascinated you to combine this physical experience of eating and touching the food with the sphere of virtual reality?

In most of our works, our ambition is to blend haptics and tactility with the experience of virtual space. This time, already inhabiting a mixed reality where physical dimensions are readily accessible, we wanted to experiment by bringing objects from the virtual to the physical realm using ceramic 3D printing, while further enriching their objecthood with digital information.

Touch is a crucial element in our work and research concerning digital environments and the future of our lived experiences. We think that the Metaverse will essentially be a spatial internet – a three-dimensional augmented expansion of the current internet enabling fully immersive digital interactions. The hand, as ur-tool, has significantly influenced human intelligence. It allows for precise manipulation of objects in space and the application of physical force. This capability not only heightens our awareness of our own presence and identity by marking actions as our own but also effectively links the digital and physical realms. Consequently, the body acts as a ‘frame,’ serving as a ‘co-processor’ for digital information.

This is the reason we are passionate about creating exploratory objects to offer a physical counterpart to our XR experiences and spaces, like the AI-generated culinary objects that you can see at the table: it enables interaction with both digital and physical materialities simultaneously. The objects of Be My Guest! were physically materialized using ceramic 3D printing technologies and resulted in being exploratory and performative, challenging the act of dining as we know it.

In March 2023 you presented this work during the IMPAKT Hybrid Wine and Art Tasting Event. How has the work changed or developed since then?

During March, we were still in the research phase of the project, which has since taken various directions before reaching its current form. We delved into spatial streaming technologies to unite people from disparate locations for shared dining spatial experiences with a custom made Record3D app that was connected to our spatial canvas. We developed an interesting creative partnership with our AI Agent Parasite. Our explorations included experimenting with various text-to-3D generative AI models for designing our tableware collection and utilizing 3D printing in ceramics to materialize the AI-generated designs. We dedicated numerous days to engaging with Social VR platforms, investigating rituals of communal virtual dining and the ways in which food can facilitate community building in networked digital environments. Moreover, we have iterated several versions of the AI dinner event itself. We emphasize the plurality of versions because, in practice, each performance of the dinner introduces new elements to the project and the event itself. These changes are responsive to the audience and the venue, as well as reflective of our continuous research.

The name ‘Be My Guest!’ seems to be a reference to the song from Beauty and the Beast. Do you envision your work ever being turned into a musical?
That’s an amusing idea. Actually, it’s not from the song, but it could have been. The name ‘Be My Guest!’ just came from imagining an AI inviting you to its table for dinner, saying those simple words. Though, the concept of having dinner with a digital, non-human intelligence that planned the meal and hosts it is anything but simple. It was our way of adding a bit of irony to the mix.

The other artists we are Getting In Touch with are Paula Nishijima, Studio Above&Below, T(n)C, and Nadja Verena Marcin.

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