“Can a robot create a masterpiece?” That was one of the key questions Will Smith’s character in I, Robot asked of the machines known as Sonny to make the distinction between natural and artificial intelligence. It was an attempt to infer that robots aren’t capable of creativity, but now they well and truly are. Meet e-David: a robot that can use basic programming to not only paint a masterpiece, but learn how to create strokes the programmer didn’t intend.
e-David is an actuated arm holding a paintbrush that uses 24 different colours to create art.
The programmer inputs what should be painted before the robot takes over and, by using visual feedback from the canvas, can decide where additional brush strokes should go.
The programmers explain it thusly:
e-David, our painting machine, uses visual feedback to create different kinds of paintings. We equipped a standard robot with all necessary means for painting. Five different brushes can be used, colour can be selected from a repository with 24 colours, brushes can be cleaned and colours can be distributed precisely on the canvas.
The machine watches itself while painting and decides independently where to add new strokes. This way paintings are created that are not completely defined by the programmer but are the result of a visual optimisation process.
I, for one, welcome our new creative overlords.