The coming end of bad hotel art
On inoffensive hotel decor, artificial intelligence, and what's poised to become the future of vacation souvenirs
The artwork inside the rooms of chain hotels has long been the target of derision for its bland unremarkability. Undistinguished hangings break up the large surface area of a wall, but in remaining inoffensive, they often turn out almost completely uninspiring.
■ This is a shame particularly because bold and creative art can do a wonderful job of helping to create a sense of place, either by reflecting special commissions for the architectural space or by putting a spotlight on local artists. But even when lobbies and public spaces are well-appointed, the art inside guest rooms is often no better than an afterthought.
■ The quality deficit may well have a solution right around the corner. The lightning-fast evolution of artificial intelligence art generators is breathtaking in its own right. OpenAI's DALL-E 2 and the AI Curio Bot are two examples of rendering tools that can create artwork with nothing more than a text prompt.
■ The more work the artificial intelligence tools do, the more sophisticated they become. And at present, the only evident limitation is the amount of available computing power -- which is why people are joining waitlists to get a chance to place their requests.
■ Combining the power of these artificial-intelligence tools with the practical capacities of e-ink displays that can show color, it's easy to imagine customized displays being installed in lobbies, restaurants, meeting rooms, and even guest rooms. Televisions can be used, of course, but their energy demands would be costly and the light they generate would be a distraction to those trying to use their hotel rooms for actual sleeping.
■ But electronic ink -- like what's used in a Kindle e-reader -- only reflects light, so it uses very little energy and doesn't distract the sleeper. Some enterprising hotels, starting at the high end but likely working their way quickly down the price ladder, will not that long from now be able to offer guests the option to have custom-generated art displayed in their rooms.
■ And because copyright law in the US doesn't protect AI-generated art, smart hotel operators will offer guests copies of the works custom-made to satisfy them. It's a use case that seems custom-suited to travel: Just as guests turn to the hotel concierge for advice and recommendations, so too will they be able to turn to artificial intelligence for personalized in-room experiences. And at the end of a visit, anything from a high-quality print down to coffee cup or a postcard could be produced from the work to make for an original souvenir.
■ A few known guest preferences, a local theme, and some computing power can be combined to make the generic hotel experience a much more personal one. Once the available supply of computing power catches up with the potential, it's hard not to imagine the idea taking right off.
An example of travel-themed art generated on-demand by @ai_curio_bot