Venice Immersive Project ‘Tulpamancer’ Brings Dreams to Life Via AI

A new art installation at the Venice Immersive — the film festival’s VR sidebar — promises to make dreams a reality, or virtual reality at least.

Tulpamancer, created by Marc Da Costa and Matthew Niederhauser uses open-source AI tools, including Open AI and StableDiffusion, to reconstruct users’ memories and dreams in a guided two-step journey, then reproduce through virtual reality (VR).

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In the trailer of Tulpamancer, we hear the voice of ‘Tulpa’, a software program that, according to the story of the piece, was discovered in an old warehouse that once housed the laboratory of an East German scientist.

Tulpamancer is an interactive experience that allows people to have an intimate encounter with AI technology,” says Da Costa, speaking to THR Roma. “You walk into a room and sit down at a computer, and you chat with this mysterious AI entity that will ask you questions about your memories, your past, your future. Then, you walk into a room with a VR headset, during which a totally new custom script, visual and voiceover is produced for you.”

The style of the installation is reminiscent of the 1980s, with the Tulpamancer computer displayed on a classic black screen with green text The experience, according to the creators, is an experiment on two fronts. The first is on the use of AI in art to make a contribution to the ongoing debate, which has come to a head with the dual strikes in Hollywood. The second is an experiment with the construction of personalized narratives.

“We’ve conceived this project before the strikes, and our initial perspective, as artists, is that AI is a new tool to be displayed as an installation but also for storytelling,” says Niederhauser. “It’s a technology that both of us have had an interest in for decades. Obviously, there’s been a sudden shift in terms of the quality of AI and how it’s been used, and it’s definitely going to see misuse,” he continues. “We support the strikes, and we want to bring some distinction to the conversation. In the hands of an exploitative industry, AI can be very harmful.

“We’ve created something that will hopefully allow people to see [AI’s] limitations, we didn’t create the matrix, it’s just an installation,” notes Niederhauser. “But also a foreshadowing of something that is definitely coming, and it’s especially about personalized narratives, and the power to engage and have a conversation.”

Testing the installation at Venice Immersive, the point the two artists want to convey is clear: As a storyteller, Tulpamancer is limited. The more details shared with the machine, the more accurate the VR creation becomes, but otherwise, it doesn’t have the tools to recreate much of anything at all, leaving details and images vague.

Despite Tulpamancer‘s harmless appearance, Da Costa warns AI technology “is really powerful and needs to be regulated.”

Check out the exclusive trailer for Tulpamancer on THR Roma‘s website here.

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