New exhibit at Schenectady’s miSci looks at ‘what AI is and isn’t’

A look at outside the new miSci exhibit “Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine.” (Abby Lorch/For The Daily Gazette)

A look at outside the new miSci exhibit “Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine.”

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SCHENECTADY — Those visiting the Museum of Innovation and Science (miSci) this summer might be surprised to see just how lifelike computers can be.

The museum’s new exhibit, “Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine,” brings visitors face to face with various forms of AI. With 25 interactive components, the exhibition features computers that chat with you, play games with you and even create art from your likeness. The exhibit also provides detailed information on the development of the technology.

According to Chris Hunter, miSci’s vice president of collections and exhibitions, the exhibit tells a story about AI and its role in human life.

“It’s not going to hammer you over the head with a very technical look at AI, but a lot of it is societal — looking at how it’s used in the movies and how the idea has grown up through history, exploring the basics of how AI works and the different uses of it,” Hunter said. “It goes through what AI is and isn’t, and dispels those myths.”

Four-sided displays placed throughout the room provide a complete history of AI, with text sections ranging from “Mythical Thinking Machines” to “What About the Future?” Meanwhile, interactives allow visitors to engage with popular present-day AI examples. There are stations dedicated to ChatGPT, image generation, voice-to-text transcription, AI art and more.

“People are actually getting to use AI here, from a very basic mind-reading robot to face motion capture to the game of ‘Pong,’ where you play against the computer,” Hunter said.

As the name suggests, “Your Mind & The Machine” explores human thought alongside computer processing. No matter how advanced its interactives may seem, the exhibit emphasizes that AI still can’t think like humans.

“AI programs are not aware of what they are doing; they do not have minds,” one display reads. “They just follow instructions, rules, or mathematical equations in order to come up with an answer.”

Some displays also suggest that AI, if utilized properly, could help to solve human problems. This is the philosophy behind the University at Albany’s AI Plus initiative, which sponsors the miSci exhibit. Kesh Kesavadas, vice president for research and economic development at UAlbany, stressed the importance of AI education in an evolving world.

“AI is a part of everything we do. It impacts our community, our society and the future of our students, wherever they find a career,” Kesavadas said. “Working with miSci made a lot of sense for us because we want the community to also get engaged in AI and understand its various facets.”

AI Plus aims to integrate AI into UAlbany’s academics and research endeavors. Kesavadas described the goal of the program’s partnership with miSci.

“We want to give people a foundational idea of what AI actually means — the technology behind it, how trustworthy it is and so forth,” Kesavadas said. “We are trying to create better citizens of the future who can make decisions in a much better way when it comes to technology.”

Hunter and the miSci team have similar hopes for the exhibition.

“We hope people get a better understanding about what AI actually is and how it can be used as a powerful tool in all facets of business,” Hunter said. “Like any tool, it has its benefits and its potential drawbacks. Hopefully, coming to this exhibit you can get a better sense of what those are and experience some of the AI that’s out there for yourself.”

The exhibit will run through Sept. 10. MiSci President Gina Gould expressed excitement about the newest addition to the museum.

“MiSci is proud to bring this groundbreaking exhibition to Schenectady, and we look forward to welcoming visitors from across the region and beyond,” Gould said. “ ‘Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine’ promises to be an engaging and thought-provoking experience for all who attend.”

Categories: Art, Life and Arts, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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