Design technologist from Kochi creates AI-powered typewriter

Intimidated by ChatGPT? This vintage typewriter explores the possibilities of a relationship between AI and humans

February 27, 2023 03:56 pm | Updated 09:25 pm IST

Arvind Sanjeev

Arvind Sanjeev | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Write a news story about unicorns spotted in Kerala...” Arvind Sanjeev types this question on his AI-powered typewriter and we wait for the answer. Moments later, the typewriter turns in a thoughtful reply to the whimsical question. “Experts believe,” it explains, “that warmer weather in the region could be encouraging these magical creatures to migrate.”

With chatbots making headlines the world over and sparking heated discussions, Arvind decided to experiment with AI in his own way. He powered a vintage typewriter with a GPT-3 language model from Open AI.

The AI chatbot does not disappoint, offering an answer to almost anything that is asked. From poems to jokes, to existential queries, it is hands-on. “I have had friends try out my typewriter, asking it all types of questions. The answers have always been inventive,” smiles Arvind.

Ghostwriter, an AI-powered typewriter

Ghostwriter, an AI-powered typewriter | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Ghostwriter, as he calls it, is an 80s model Brothers typewriter that he bought off an e-commerce platform. The idea of integrating AI with it was an artistic experiment, says Arvind,“ a way of connecting our past with the present and future. We have a history of working with the typewriter. We tend to trust these devices more than we trust our phones, which use our data. The typewriter is also more deliberate, in the sense that it gives you the ability to focus only on the act of writing. So, I wanted to take AI out of the phone and put it on a vintage device,” he says.

The potential of AI

A design technologist, who did his Masters in Interaction Design at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction, Arvind is constantly fascinated by the potential of AI and likes to navigate the space between the physical and the digital. “There is no need for the sense of anxiousness we have around AI. We need to be able to co-create with it in a safe space,” he says.

The Ghostwriter, he says, could well be the world’s first AI-powered typewriter. He repaired the typewriter and had two hardware units installed in it — a computer board, the Raspberry Pi, which talks to the chatGPT and Arduino, which simulates the key presses.

Arvind runs a full-time hardware startup, Lumen World, of which he is a co-founder and chief technology officer. It is currently developing a mixed reality flashlight, which gives a combination of physical and virtual realities. Though still catching on in India, the technology is being experimented with in entertainment spaces and museums in Europe and the US.

Pushing the boundaries of technology to solve real world problems is what keeps him hooked, says Arvind, who worked in Sweden soon after his Masters.

The Ghostwriter, he says, could well be the world’s first AI-powered typewriter. He repaired the typewriter and after testing it out, had two hardware units installed in it — a tiny computer board, the Raspberry Pi, which talks to the chatGPT and Arduino, which simulates the key presses. 

Arvind runs a full-time hardware startup, Lumen World, of which he is a co-founder and chief technology officer. It is currently developing a mixed reality flashlight, which gives a combination of physical and virtual realities. Though still catching on in India, the technology is being experimented with in entertainment spaces, museums and gaming centres in Europe and the US. 

Pushing the boundaries of technology to solve real world problems is what keeps him hooked to it, says Arvind, who worked in Sweden soon after his Masters. 

Can AI replace you?

“It was always assumed that AI would replace blue collar jobs, those which involve repetitive tasks. But it has started replacing creative jobs,” says Arvind, adding “At the end of the day, it lacks emotional intelligence. A human who is comfortable with AI and makes use of it in everyday life stands to gain.”

Arvind says he has always been fascinated with technology even as a student of Electronics and Communications Engineering at Toc H Institute at Arakkunnam in Kerala, tinkering with gadgets and creating his own. Arvind has conducted technical workshops in colleges across India and partnered with the Government of Kerala on a project to distribute Raspberry Pi kits to school students as well. He believes the first step to embracing change is understanding it. “Experiments with AI help people reflect on the relationship between man and machine”.

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