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Robotics and Art: A Less Practical More Aesthetic Use for Robots

Mariane Davids
by Mariane Davids. Last updated on Dec 06, 2018 8:15 AM
Posted on Dec 06, 2018 7:00 AM. 3 min read time

 Are all robots devoid of aesthetic debts? And if not, could we expect the future Guernica to be created by artificial intelligence (AI)? What are the less practical uses for robots, and do they include fine arts?


Could machines ever create art that moves us?

Andrew Conru, the founder of RobotArt with a Stanford PhD in mechanical engineering framed on his wall, is among a handful of believers. Unlike other sci-fi robotic projects, RobotArt is a global challenge for AI and robotics that’s been programmed to express itself artistically. All machines are welcome to participate.

Will RobotArt give rise to a new species of artists with robot programming, or is creation inherently human after all?


A robot painter programmed to express itself artistically.


The Turing test

Though Spike Jonze’s Her may be a more suitable moving picture to start this conversation with, there’s another movie that brings us much closer to man’s belief in machines as human lookalikes. It was The Imitation Game that first introduced us to the exceptional mind of AI pioneer Alan Turing.

The Turing Test, sadly unexplored in the movie itself, is the world’s most famous tool for determining the uncanny resemblance between human and robotic creation. If the interrogator, the human being, cannot tell whether the creation comes from a person or a machine, the machine has passed the test.

Numerous examples of robotic artworks that have passed the Turing test with flying colors can be found online, the most notable of which are oil on canvas produced by a computer program AARON back in 1992, and For the Bristlecone Snag, a full-length poem that was also generated by a computer, in 2011.

Be that as it may, the only criterion that the Turing Test relies on is human impression, which means that a connoisseur would probably be able to note the difference that would remain overlooked by most dilettantes. A more complex algorithm for measuring the artistic value of robotic creation and robot vision is due.


RobotArt & Beaty.AI

RobotArt, on the other hand, judges robotic artwork by three criteria – aesthetic originality, painting techniques, and the piece’s contribution to the field. Every piece is evaluated by both public voters and a panel of art critics, which ensures that bias is leveled out by the professionals’ objective assessment.

This year’s RobotArt winner, CloudPainter, is a brilliant example of a less practical and more aesthetic use of artificial intelligence that the human race should applaud more loudly to. Equipped with brushes in its industrial robotic arm, CloudPainter is an AI artist that creates just like a human painter.

On the other side of this spectrum is the robot juror behind Beauty.AI, an online platform marketed as “the first international beauty contest judged by artificial intelligence”. This robot may not be an artist, but is apparently capable of discerning aesthetic quality when analyzing beauty in human traits.

Taken together, these two examples showcase that robots aren’t devoid of aesthetic capabilities. Whether or not the art they create is only a reproduction made possible by machine learning is by all means worthy of debate. Still, nobody can say that sophisticated algorithms can’t refine our creation.

Maybe your view of the subject is different. Are you a believer in authentic robotic creation like Andrew Conru, or do you think that the aesthetic use of AI solutions starts and ends with beauty contests? Will the future Pablo Picasso be a machine? Let us know where you stand on robotics and art in the comments or join the discussion on LinkedInTwitter, Facebook or the DoF professional robotics community.

Watch the RUC Challenge web series on Youtube

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Mariane Davids
Written by Mariane Davids
Mariane Davids is a social media marketer with over a decade of experience in the industry. She's now bringing her decade of experience to others so they can better connect with their communities.
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