Picasso once said "I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them." How might a computer think about the objects it sees?
100 DRAWINGS, 100 UNKNOWN OUTCOMES
On the surface it seems simple - email a photo, have a computer interpret it like a cubist artist, and receive a custom drawing. But this isn't a fancy Photoshop trick, or an Instagram filter. This is a little taste of the future, where machines may indeed be creative and capable of seeing the world in new and exciting ways. Be part of a select group to receive a custom, limited edition drawing created without human influence - the "seeing," artistic interpretation and process of drawing line-by-line is all performed by machines. The outcome is always unexpected, visually interesting, and tells a story.
WHY IS THIS UNIQUE?
Robot Picasso was originally produced out of frustration: a 3D printer full of problems (the company went bankrupt after this failed printer), and a desire to give it some sort of useful life. It turns out that it's not so bad as a 2D printer! A custom 3D printed mount has been made to hold pens instead of plastic filament. The technology is actually not that new; before affordable large format printers, plotters were commonly used to produce large graphics and building plans. It's a mesmerizing process, just like 3D printing, with the drawing produced line-by-line just like a human. But this is only half the story.
The real trick to this project is the algorithms used to recognize features of a photo and "grow" lines to key areas of contrast or interest. This has developed through my PhD research into visual programming languages and generative design techniques, but I won't bore you with all the technical details here. If you're interested I published a paper and presented this project at the 2016 Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) conference, which you can read about here.
The original demonstration allowed people to pose in front of the webcam in real-time and watch the drawing occur. But getting you all in front of my computer might be just a little challenging! So this is the first time that photos are being used in front of the webcam for the computer to observe, just like an artist may use photographs to inspire an artwork.
Should this campaign be successful, the following will occur:
1. At the end of the campaign you will be asked to email a single photo or image to Robot Picasso (landscape format, preferably a standard 6x4 ratio to minimize cropping). Perhaps a precious wedding photo, the kids, some scenery or even the family pet. The key to getting a good result from Robot Picasso is some good contrast between shapes and colors.
2. Photos will be printed out as glossy 6x4 prints.
3. Photos will be propped in front of a webcam for Robot Picasso to observe. This process lasts 10-20 seconds while he interprets what he sees with up to 500 individual lines. The end result will be saved as a DXF file for all you makers out there. If you backed the option with video, you will receive a screen recording of this process occurring for your photograph.
4. The lines are converted to machine coordinates and instructions (G-code), and sent directly from the software to the 3D printer where the artwork is drawn on A4 sized board (200gsm, FSC certified) using a custom made pen mount. This process can take 30-45 minutes depending on the complexity of the design. The final drawing is 164x135mm, roughly centered on the A4 sheet. If you backed the option with video, you will receive a video compiled of various clips (approximately 5 minutes in total, mp4 format) of your image being drawn, similar to the Kickstarter campaign video.
5. Robot Picasso also signs your drawing and numbers it in order of backing (limited to 100 for each pledge level).
6. Robot Picasso will sign the back of the original printed photo as well, which you get to keep (depending on your chosen package) so you can show both the original and the artwork.
7. A4 sized packages are mailed to you - the drawing is not trimmed so that you can fit it to any frame you like, or leave it as is. The choice is yours.
8. When all drawings are produced, the human in this team will create the eBook and send it digitally to all backers in PDF format (viewable on all devices). This will only include scanned copies of the drawings, not the original photos (for privacy issues). This also means that you can enjoy figuring out what the drawings might be, and print out additional copies of your design. This eBook could contain up to 300 unique drawings!
Help Robot Picasso live out his dreams - make a pledge, send a photo and receive some amazing robot art!
Risks and challenges
Like all technology, there is always a risk of the 3D printer or other technology breaking down. However I have a second 3D printer at home capable of creating this work, and access to many more at my university if needed. Since this work has already been successfully exhibited with live demonstrations at an international conference, I'm very confident that the process works consistently and will provide you with a truly unique piece of art. All Robot Picasso needs are your photos to begin the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)