There are numerous things that robots can do, including make breakfast, create their own language, and sneak aboard ships, but creating art tends to be associated with the minds of living beings. But a new exhibit at the Tenderpixel Gallery in London may change our conceptions of what makes someone, or something, an artist.
Scientist, artist, and engineer Patrick Tresset has developed a robot that can look at your face and draw a portrait for you while you wait. However, this robot is not designed with precision in mind. Tresset’s robot is designed to have some of the clumsiness and fallibility that make human created works of art so unique.
The robot, named Paul, doesn’t draw very realistic portraits, but they are supposed to be that way. The robot was made to be more inaccurate than available technology would allow by using low-cost servomotors instead of the industrial-grade kind used in the precise robotic arms that skillfully execute tasks everyday in different manufacturing plants. The robot features a visual apparatus that allows it to scan the face of its subject, and an arm that is programmed for a limited number of gestures, including simple tracing and erasing motions.
According to Tresset he wants Paul to embody the obsessive nature of drawing and draftsmen. He feels that the imprecision adds to a certain individual style to Paul’s drawings. Tresset works as a researcher at Goldsmiths University of London. He started on his current artistic track in part due to inspiration from his on-going collaborative work with researchers in the University’s Department of Computing.
Though this version of the robot doesn’t have a way of incorporating visual feedback to self-monitor or improve its drawings, Tresset hopes to incorporate these skills in future models.