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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

The robot who paints

About The Author

CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

E-David is an artistically inclined robot that uses special software to process its work on the fly to decide where to add the next brush stroke.

We usually call a robot that can produce images a printer, but e-David is special. E-David, created by a team at the University of Konstanz, Germany, is a painter bot — not the kind that spray paints auto parts, but of the more artistic variety.

E-David doesn't come up with images on its own, but instead takes a picture of what it wants to copy and takes it from there. It doesn't have to be programmed with directions that tell it how to paint, either; it uses something called "visual optimisation" to make its own decisions. After each brush stroke, e-David takes a picture, and its software calculates whether the image needs to be lightened or darkened, and where.

"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 team said. "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."

The images produced by e-David look organic and fluid. Without knowing their provenance, we'd be hard pressed to tell that they'd been painted by a robot; they're much more lifelike than the classical music composed by supercomputer Iamus. It's also fascinating to watch e-David work — the delicate accuracy with which it paints, ponders and returns for more paint, like a finely tuned robot ballet.

Maybe one day, we'll even get a ship that can sing.


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