Robo – Art

Is a repurposed robot the next Rembrandt? 

e-david, robot, arm, painting, art, welding,At the University of Konztanz, a welding robot has been repurposed to paint masterpieces. Armed with sophisticated programming and a series of paint brushes, e-David can recreate any artwork it’s shown.

To create its masterpieces, e-David begins by examining a picture of the source work and processing the image to assess the number of brushstrokes it will take to recreate.  After a portion of a painting is done, e-David snaps a photo of its work to compare to the original.  By using a programmed method of visual subtraction, the robot can determine what brush strokes will bring its forgery more in line with the original.

e-david, robot, arm, painting, welding,What gives e-David the unique ability to transition from its previous career as a welder lays in its core design. Created to have three degrees of freedom, e-David’s red metallic arm can work as easily with a paintbrush as it did with a welding torch.

Although impressive, e-David is still a bit limited in what it can create. While the preferred medium for most old masters was oil paint, e-David is limited to using quick drying acrylics so it can correct errors.

However, the most limiting aspect of e-Davids’s technique becomes evident when you zoom out on the painting. Because the robot requires the same volume of paint on its brush each time it makes a stroke, the robot dumps its excess paint in a far corner of the canvas. For some that might be a detracting factor, but in my opinion I like to see it as e-David’s signature.

While some might bristle at the idea of robot created art, don’t expect to see any robo-paintings showing up at the MOMA anytime soon. For now e-David will be stuck making work in a lab at the Universität Konstanz, but I look forward to a future filled with robotic mastercopies.