Anything you can do, a robot can do better. OK, that’s probably not quite true yet, as Honda’s Asimo robot demonstrated recently, but it’s really getting there. Take e-David, for example. This robotic painter developed by the University of Konstanz in Germany takes photographs, then uses its software to develop a unique set of brush strokes to make a one-of-a-kind painting of its subject. For everyone who got a fine arts degree thinking that they’d be impervious to replacement by robots, this could not be worse news.
e-David, which even goes so far as to sign its work — and with a creepy reverse-written signature, no less — creates its mechanical masterpieces using five different brushes and a palette of 24 paint colors. Like many human painters, e-David also keeps one eye always on its canvas. That makes it able to change its painting style on the fly, making adjustments to future brush strokes by observing the results of those it has already made. The results — a series of gorgeous paintings in monochrome and watercolors — speak for themselves.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the University of Konstanz team didn’t develop e-David to make a better robotic painter. Instead, they built the robot painter to learn more about the techniques human artists use, hoping to boil painting techniques down to their basics by crafting algorithms that can mimic them. According to the project profile:
Our hypothesis is that painting – at least the technical part of painting – can be seen as optimization processes in which color is manually distributed on a canvas until the painter is able to recognize the content – regardless if it is a representational painting or not.
What do you all think? Is a robot painter always going to be just going through the motions? Or are we posing the wrong question when we look at a painting and ask “Yeah, but where’s the heart?”
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