"The Impossible Statue" is designed using artificial intelligence (AI) software (Credit: Sandvik)

What kind of sculpture would five famous artists who lived 500 years apart create if they worked together? That was the challenge two Swedish companies set up for themselves in August 2022. The result is "The Impossible Statue," the world's first sculpture designed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) software.

The five-foot (1.5 meter) half-a-ton stainless steel masterpiece was unveiled at the Stockholm National Museum of Science and Technology in May 2023. The stunning artwork is a joint effort between Swedish engineering company Sandvik and The A.I. Framework. It combines the styles of Michelangelo (Italy 1475-1564), Auguste Rodin (France 1840-1917), Kathe Kollwitz (Germany 1867-1945), Kotaro Takamura (Japan 1883-1956) and Augusta Savage (US 1892-1962).

"This is a true statue created by five different masters that would never have been able to collaborate in real life," said Sandvik spokesperson, Pauliina Lunde.

The sculpture includes features from five famous artists (Credit: Sandvik)

The companies began by selecting the attributes of each artist they wanted in the statue. For example, the sculpture's off-balance pose was inspired by Michelangelo's work, while its muscular body was influenced by Rodin's masterpieces.

Scientists at The A.I. Framework then used AI software to generate various 2D images of what a combination of the selected styles would look like. Once the Sandvik team was satisfied with the design, they made a 3D model of the image. However, instead of building a steel prototype, the company tested the manufacturing process with digital simulations. The technique substantially reduced the time it took to make the statue and lowered steel usage by 50 percent. More importantly, it was extremely accurate. "The Impossible Statue" is composed of nine million polygons and 17 different steel pieces. It differs from its computer model by less than 0.03 mm — about the size of a grain of sand!

Resources: Fastcompany.com, BBDONordics, artnet.com