In science and art - AI applications you haven't thought about

In recent years, you have most probably heard the phrase ‘AI will steal your job’ or any variation thereof. Well, so have I – but maybe the job stealing isn’t what we should be focusing on at all?

If you have not had the chance to read my previous entries (you are welcome to do so after this one), I am a molecular biologist currently working in structural biology research. AI is an intense topic in the field right now because of AlphaFold, the 3D protein structure predictive AI system developed by Google DeepMind. When I first developed interest in structural biology, AlphaFold had not yet been released but the truth is that since starting actively participating in the research, this tool has been ever-present. In fact, I recently said to a colleague; ‘Am I the generation that won’t know what life was like without AlphaFold?’

I am not here to dispute if AI is helping or hurting society – however interesting this conversation between a computer scientist and sociologist could be. 

In this month’s post we are going to look at some AI applications, after which I hope you will gain some familiarity with what really is going on with it. 

When AlphaFold was first released, many impressions were that experimental structural biology is soon to be a thing of the past. Still today, there is the occasional question; ‘Why would you be doing this if AlphaFold exists?’ It is an enormous improvement and boost in establishing workflows based on AlphaFold predictions. Since it is still fairly new, upgrades enabling more features come out periodically, like the most recent AlphaFold 3. It is able to predict structure of proteins, DNA, RNA, ions and modified residues with possibility of modelling how they interact. At this stage, this powerful tool will not completely replace experimental structural biology, though utilising AlphaFold at the first stage of experimental plan is more than likely. 

Indeed, this brings me to the initial statement – instead of focusing on what AI will replace, let’s focus on how we can work with it to improve workflows, speed up a process, improve customer experience, do research, manage repetitive tasks or even make art. 

Another, not yet mainstream, is AI in art. I recently had the opportunity to visit Melt Museum’s Artificial Dreams exhibition in Warsaw which in select installations employ tools such as Madmapper, Cinema 4D, Field and OSC. Another installation entitled ‘the flow’ made with TouchDesigner, NVIDIA Flex and OSC, is a digital simulation of fluid dynamics that you can interact with. Thanks to the software used in its conception, real-time visual effects create patterns and motions mimicking the natural world. 

In ‘simulation’, the artists employ Unreal Engine 5, Niagara, ZED 2i, Ableton Live and MIDI to exhibit a virtual ocean of simulated fish. Motion sensors of the installation detect spectator movement which is then translated into the projection triggering fish reaction. Spectators’ presence also affects the sound landscape. 

Melt Immersive’s Artificial Dreams exhibition is comprised of 15 multisensory installations made using generative AI, graphic and sound design technology. 

You don’t have to be an AI expert to appreciate its capabilities. My own knowledge of AI in art was quite limited before seeing this exhibition and what is possible. The fact that it is not something that I am familiar with beyond the scope of my work does not imply it as a hostile environment. In many cases, opening up the subject of AI in conversation can become a tricky situation to navigate – it’s important to remember that AI systems were not developed for us to fight against them, but rather that, when applied properly, we can use them to our benefit. 

So with that I encourage you to find out not how AI can replace you, but how you can use it to help yourself, whether that is in your personal interests or your day job.

This post represents the author’s personal account and point of view on the topic described.

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