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Calculating art: Meet e-David, the painting machine

Posted on July 16, 2013
Credit: e-David project

Credit: e-David project

Sometime in the future, you will be at an art gallery where you are drawn to a nice-looking tree, or haunting line drawing of a woman’s face, or historical portrait, and you will wonder who is the artist. Eye the lower corner of the canvas and it will tell you, “David.” What you might not realize is that David is a robot—e-David, to be exact. A team at the University of Konstanz in Germany have developed e-David as a robot “artist” that uses software to decide where to add the next brush stroke. After each brush stroke, e-David takes a picture, and its software calculates such moves as where the image needs to be lightened or darkened. At the University of Konstanz, the group said their project objective is to build a robot that can paint, pure and simple. By paint, they do not mean adding a fresh coat to a kitchen ceiling but delivering art.

The school’s Department of Computer and Information Science has a structure where workgroups share a common research topic, and e-David is a project within the topic, “Exploration and visualization of large information spaces.”

The robot is not “person-able,” more like the metallic skeleton of a mythical and very studious canine. They used an industry robot normally used to weld car bodies, and enhanced it with sensors, camera, control computer, and art supplies. They chose the name “David” not because they especially liked that name but because it stands for what they tried to accomplish: Drawing Apparatus for Vivid Image Display.

The computer program provides drawing commands that are executed by the machine. This can be considered as a step above humans painting- by-numbers: Just as one observes sidewalk artists repeatedly tweaking their lines and dabs and brush strokes as they fill an empty canvas, the robot does something similar. The device takes a picture of what it wants to copy. The robot watches itself paint and decides where to add the next stroke, constantly tweaking its moves based on what it’s seeing through a camera pointed at its canvas.

Read more at: Phys.org

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