Remember Sophia? The First Robot-Made NFT Artwork Just Sold for Nearly $700,000

Synthetic art is on the rise, and it kicks.
Brad Bergan

An NFT artwork co-created by the Sophia robot sold for nearly $700,000 at a Hong Kong auction — with the winning bidder going home as the owner of a 12-second MP4 file explaining how the work was made, in addition to a vibrantly colorful "self-portrait" of the humanoid robot, according to an Instagram post from Sophia's art partner.

Sophia the robot 'creates' an NFT artwork from a pre-painted 'self-portrait'

Sophia the robot "created" the new digital artworks alongside Andrea Bonaceto — who makes art at the blockchain investment firm Eterna Capital and is renowned for his unconventionally vectorial portraits of celebrities, like Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk.

"We wanted to explore the possibility for humans and robots to collaborate not only on operational tasks but also on creative efforts," said Bonaceto in an interview with The Next Web. Several other items of digital artwork were auctioned on Thursday, and each was linked to a non-fungible token (NFT) — which is a digital certificate of ownership ensured with the high security of blockchain technology.

The human-humanoid art duo started when Bonaceto made a portrait of Sophia — who then snapped photos of the image, which were analyzed via computer vision to evaluate the presence of forms and faces. Afterward, transformer neural networks generated novel imprints for Sophia to design and paint with the robot's mechanical arm.

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A post shared by Andrea Bonaceto (@andreabonac_art)

The winning bidder of Sophia's art added a final touch

The last step in the digital artwork involved a touch from the winning bidder — a digital artist going by the name 888. After the auction, 888 shared a hand-painted image of their own that was integrated into the final painting (product?) with several extra brushstrokes from Sophia.

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"A hand and an arm packed with color and gesture," said David Hanson, Sophia's creator. "It's 888's choice of image meeting Sophia's choice of image."

There's not much to say about 888, except that their Twitter account is very passionate about building a substantial collection of NFT artwork. The digital art collector's name relates to an uncommon fondness for the number eight — having shelled out $688,000 on Sophia's first NFT artwork, after an earlier bid of $88,888.88 for a different NFT, of Jack Dorsey's first tweet.

NFT art is exploding in 2021

NFT artwork exploded onto the blockchain and artwork scenes in 2021. In early March, a graphic designer named Beeple sold a digital image with an NFT for a mind-twisting $69.3 million — the third most expensive sale of any living artist, following only Jeff Koons and David Hockney. The first (or opening) bid for Beeple's meta-flexing collage of a collage that incorporated 5,000 images was a trivial $100.

In February 2021, a singular digital rendition of the Nyan Cat meme sold for 300 Ethereum — which was roughly $590,000 at the time. With even well-known and decade-old memes selling for such high prices by becoming NFTs, and even robots like Sophia getting in on the action, you might be worried that art has lost all sense of formal relation to human experience — now that it's becoming reduced to a naked commodity. While we don't recommend tuning out the unfolding NFT craze, about art-as-currency becoming currency-as-art we can say: you're not wrong to worry.