Sunday Times

Blockchain data pays for robot art


● A digital artwork by humanoid robot Sophia was sold at auction this week for $688,888 (R10.3m) in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT), the latest sign of a frenzy in the NFT art world.

NFTs, a digital signature saved on blockchain ledgers that allows anyone to verify the ownership and authentici­ty of items, have become the latest investment craze, with one artwork selling this month for nearly $70m.

Sophia, which was unveiled in 2016, produced its art in collaborat­ion with 31-yearold Italian digital artist Andrea Bonaceto, known for colourful portraits, some of which depict famous people, such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The robot combined elements from Bonaceto’s works, art history and its own physical drawings or paintings on various surfaces multiple times in a process its creator David Hanson describes as “iterative loops of evolution”.

The digital work is a 12-second MP4 file showing the evolution of Bonaceto’s portrait into Sophia’s digital painting, and is accompanie­d by a physical artwork, painted by Sophia on a printout of its self-portrait.

“I’m so excited about people’s response to new technologi­es like robotics ... and am so glad to be part of these creativiti­es,” the robot said.

The identity of the buyer was not immediatel­y known.

Hanson said he was surprised at the pace of the bidding.

“I was kind of astonished to see how fast it shot up too as the bidding war took place at the end of the auction. So it was really exhilarati­ng and stunning,” he said.

Art collector and blockchain investor Jehan Chu said there was a lot of money waiting to invest in digital goods and while the digital art sector was looking frothy right now, he saw huge potential.

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