Watch Out Artists, Robots Take Your Job Next

Robot Arm Artist

Move over Claude Monet, there is a new act in town in the form of a robot capable of creating some pretty cool art.

We’ve seen robotic artists before but most of them are either cartesian-based or hanging drawbots. This is a full-fledged Sharpie-wielding robotic arm that draws with dots giving its work an impressionistic feel.

The actual robotic arm is a stock Interbotix WidowX. The folks over at Phantom Multimedia wrote some custom software that takes a graphic and breaks it down into a 1-bit representation. The code then goes through the bitmap at random, picking points to draw on the medium. The hard part of this project was figuring out how to translate the 2D image into 3D robotic arm movements. Since the arm has several joints, there are multiple mathematical solutions for arm position to move the marker to any given point. The team ended up writing an algorithm to determine the most efficient way to move from point to point. Even so, each drawing takes hours.

As if that wasn’t enough, the software was then reworked to probe positions. Instead of automatically moving the arm to a predetermined point, the arm is manually moved to a location and the data retrieved from the servo encoders is used to determine the position of a probe at the end of the arm. Each point taken in this manner can then be combined to generate a 3D model.

Thanks for the tip [Adam]

26 thoughts on “Watch Out Artists, Robots Take Your Job Next

    1. One of the finest solutions that we’ve ever come across is Adrian Secord’s algorithm, which uses an iterative relaxation process to optimize a weighted Voronoi diagram, mathematically producing a set of points (stipples) that can closely approach the appearance of a traditional stipple drawing.

      Another important technique is TSP art, where the image is represented by a single continuous path. You can generate a path like this by connecting all of the dots in a stipple diagram. Designing a route that visits each dot exactly once (and minimizing the distance traveled) is an example of the famous Travelling Salesman Problem (or just “TSP”), and an optimal TSP path can give a surprisingly good grayscale representation of an image. From the standpoint of toolpaths (for the Egg-bot and most other CNC machines), a TSP path is even nicer than stipples, because little or no time is spent raising and lowering the tool.

    1. Well, I can’t speak for a trend world wide or anything, but I do know that a couple people at my work place were replaced with one guy running an automated machine. They did get new jobs in the same company though. Paying about 2/3rds what the old job did. So, no job loss true. But it can still be a sore point for a lot of people. Especially since that was so close to poverty level that they quit and had to go searching for other jobs.

      Even the guy writing this article admits that the jobs that are replacing the jobs taken by machines tend to be things like janitorial work, nursing home care, and police. 10th paragraph.

    2. When people talk about robots taking jobs, they aren’t talking about there literally no longer being jobs for people. That’s an overly-literal interpretation. They understand that the robots have to be manufactured and maintained.

      The real problem is that *particular* jobs go away, potentially rendering skillsets far less valuable, or forcing people to start from scratch in a new industry where their work experience doesn’t command any more than a normal starting salary.

      Now, I realize technological progress is a genie that can’t be re-bottled, and I’m not some luddite demanding we abolish robots and automation in general. The point is that you may think the progress is worth the cost–and I tend to agree–but you can’t hand-wave away the fact that there IS a human cost.

  1. One could argue this robot creates as much art as a pencil or a paintbrush does. The actual artist is the person that writes the code that transforms the source image into movements of the robot arm.
    However, I do believe robots might one day create new forms of art, but that would come from evolutionary processes. And that kind of art may very well have nothing in common with the traditional forms we’re used to know.

  2. Soooo it’s a overly complex ink printer? I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is interesting, but it’s the “making the arm move and reliably leave dots where you want it” bit that’s interesting. Not the “creation of art” bit…

    The same program that decides where “pixels” should go could just as easily render a digital file and send it off to a printer much more efficiently with the same end result.

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