The Robotic Artist Does All The Work For A Human - Why Do We Need One?

Artists who use technological developments in their artworks are many times fewer than traditional painters. They see them as tools in their artistic arsenal. Now, robots that can paint masterpieces have joined generative networks. If the machine does most of the work, what is left for the human?

My name is Vladimir Tsimberg, I’m the founder of Robohood Inc. We developed a software for robotic manipulators that allows them to paint with brushes real art on any surface based on digital images. In this article, I will explain what role goes to the artist who uses this tool.

Robots equipped with our technology are multifunctional, and applicable in various fields, not only among artists. Education, medicine, events, fashion: there are areas where the robot has already proven itself, although the project was initially focused on painting.

As an amateur artist, I thought about technology that could enhance my work and simplify creating art. I met two developers, Anna Mishchenko and Nikolay Gavrilin, who were looking for similar solutions. They wanted to learn to paint and thought about a machine that could bring all their artistic ideas to life. This is how the Robohood was born, and its goal is to show that everyone can paint.

A team of specialists created the software for the robotic manipulator in the fields of art, robotics, data science, and artificial intelligence. Using complex algorithms and neural networks, the digital image is broken down into brushstrokes, which are then transmitted to the robot. A wide range of color and style settings are then available to the human, and the future painting can be previewed on the screen by initiating the rendering process. The algorithm performs various actions such as selecting and mixing colors and also shows the brush trajectory the robot will follow.

This is where the misconception arises that the artist reduces their work by pressing a few buttons on the robot and in the program to paint, and the robot does the rest for them. Although the manipulator works autonomously, there are three reasons why it can’t be left alone. First, the artist does extensive prep work. While the robot can paint, the human sets the task. The artist thinks through the concept and plot, chooses a palette and colors, creates a digital “sketch” or generates it with the help of a neural network. This also requires considerable effort and knowledge: creating a prompt to make sure the program understands it correctly.

Second, the robot still functions as an assistant and relies on human help with paints, replacing the sponge and water to clean the brush. After all, this is a supervision to ensure that this “mechanical apprentice” is performing everything correctly.

When you watch a Robotic Artist at work, it feels like you’re doing something, too. It may seem like a real waste of time from the outside, but you’re actively participating. Painting with a robot keeps you engaged, and psychologically, you’re very busy. It’s probably a similar phenomenon to watching television - it creates a sense of being involved in what’s happening on the screen.

This fascinating story can be both positive and negative, but given how susceptible we are to information overload, it becomes a kind of therapy. Painting with the robot is relaxing. That’s the third reason you can’t leave the robot alone: it’s impossible to look away from the process as if we become part of it. It’s like meditation. The almost imperceptible sounds of the working manipulator create an atmosphere of tranquility. That’s why we can use the robot with our software in art therapy.

In the rapidly changing world of Industry 4.0 technologies, there is a growing fear that robotic systems will take away our jobs, amplified by the emergence of ChatGPT and image generation platforms. Artists beg not to be deprived of their creativity, but as Robohood puts it, the robot is simply a tool of the new age, much like an iPad and a stylus pen. Right now, there’s not much difference between who’s standing on the canvas and who’s holding the brush.

A new era of art has dawned thanks to the influence of robotics and digitalization. The Robotic Artist assumes the role of an innovative bridge between two worlds - the physical and the digital - allowing the boldest ideas to manifest in material reality. We want to show that there is a new perspective on human-machine collaboration. Artists who have worked with the robot say it can push them beyond their creative limits. The human generates ideas and utilizes the robot as an executor, customizing it to their needs.

The Robotic Artist seems to introduce a new artistic movement on the canvas that reflects the era in which we live. In this era, the robot cannot function without a human, but does this rule work the other way around? It seems to be a not-too-distant future to believe in.

Read more: How a robot helped an artist with cerebral palsy to paint

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