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Label: machines

Wednesday 02nd March 2016Robot Artists

Another week goes by, and another story trumpeting robotic artwork comes to supposedly dazzle us. Recently we discussed the Instapainting robot that drew based on a collaborative Twitch stream, and techies across the net were fascinated by the interplay. It was fairly interesting, of course, but as a collaborative art project rather than as a dire warning that robots are soon going to be replacing human artists.

This week, we bring to your attention a robot created by Google's Creative Lab that is able to create a pencil line drawing of a photographic portrait taken by a phone camera. It's an interestingly quirky piece of tech, but hardly something that can really be called an artist, despite what the gadget-hungry internet would like you to believe.

The robot is really just a Nexus 6P smartphone attached to a device known as a IOIO (yo yo) that enables it to move a pencil up and down the canvas by contracting and releasing two cables. But all of the interpretive work, in other words all the elements that actually make up a portrait, are handled by the application that converts your photo into an on-screen line drawing. While it might have a chance at replacing a boardwalk caricature artist on sheer novelty alone, it hardly seems likely that it will ever create something that will hang on a gallery wall.

But that's not to say that it's the last word on the potential of robot artists.

As artificial intelligence becomes one of the hottest areas of scientific research thanks to some actual, tangible leaps forwards in the field (think IBM's Watson winning at Jeopardy or Google's Deepmind AlphaGo beating the world's best Go player in 4 out of 5 matches), we may actually begin to see some true attempts to create an artificial artist. Many people around the world are concerned about robots replacing them in their field - McDonalds fast food workers, for example - but is this really going to ever be a concern for the art world?

Perhaps the better question is what will happen to the creative arts in a world where menial labour is all handled by machine intelligences, leaving us with a glorious excess of free time to work on whatever may catch our fancy.
 

Posted on March 02nd 2016 on 04:37am
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