Future Machine blends art with artificial intelligence

Future Machine, built by design studio Electric Coffin, is an immersive art installation that grows through input from artists, industry leaders, innovators, non-profits, and other creatives.

The concept of ‘the future’ has long captivated the human mind and imagination. What will it look like? Who will shape and control it? How will it unfold?

Creative design studio Electric Coffin sought to explore these questions through its Future Machine, an apparatus and seven-month art installation at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, WA that unfolded gradually — much like the future — over the course of five phases and with contributions from a diverse set of voices.

These five phases of the installation were Idea, Fuel, Mechanics, Illumination, and Future. Innovators from a variety industries — including art, architecture, technology, and beyond — were invited to contribute their own unique components to each phase. Through input from this diverse community, the installation gradually grew to fill the gallery, immersing visitors in an experience that illustrates how ideas evolve and flourish through unconventional collaborations.

In the fifth and final Future phase of the project, Microsoft artificial intelligence technology was embedded in a monolithic structure that invited visitors to write down their feelings about the future, and insert them into a slot. The machine would then infer whether these were positive or negative sentiments and respond with a corresponding sound. The goal was to explore the power human voices have to shape the future — and to embrace it rather than fear it.

The Future Machine was on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum for seven months in 2017.

Learn more about the components of the installation or the making of Future Machine.