Interactive Media Arts Capstone Brief

Interactive Project

Robot Artist: A robot that draws with a regular pen

I have been having an interest in robot for a long time and I have recently rediscovered my passion for visual arts. Therefore, I would like to combine those two and build a robot artist that draws with a regular pen. The robot will sit on the surface it will draw on, and draw as it moves around on the surface. There are two possible method that the robot will draw. One is to work like a dot matrix printer, the robot striking the pen on the surface, making little dots. The other is to work like a 3d printer, the robot drawing lines as it moves around.

As for the material, I would experiment with different types of pens, or even markers, highlighters, etc. And the fact that the material is pens rather than inkjet inks distinguishes the artwork (the drawing) from a print. It also makes it possible for the robot to draw or even paint with almost any material on any flat surface of any size. However, the placements of the dots and lines would be decided by algorithms, and the robot is machinery, so the artwork is a combination of traditional art and new technology, which also poses the question of whether robots can create fine arts.

Different surfaces, methods and material of drawing make different styles, but the style of the robot artist can also be affected by the algorithms behind it. The robot artist will most likely have a camera built in, serving the purpose of an eye. An impressionist robot artist would take a snapshot of what it sees and draws little dots that eventually mimic its view, whereas an abstract robot artist would probably pick a color or an element of what it sees and draw as its view changes. In any case, the robot artist will not draw from its mind, which, I will honestly admit, it does not have, instead, it will draw in response to the real world around it, which makes it interactive.

Research Paper

Robots and Arts: A study on whether or not robots can create fine arts

It has been decades since modern autonomous robots were created. Robots and artificial intelligence are applied to many fields nowadays. From Deep Blue to Alpha Go, what artificial intelligence can do has been improving amazingly, but the improvements are mostly the amount of computations that can be done within a period of time, due to both the hardware improvements and algorithm improvements, but whether or not a robot, or in other words, artificial intelligence is able to be creative and create fine arts is still controversial. This research paper would study the controversy by bringing in points of view from computer scientists, artists as well as people from other discipline. The paper will most likely not draw a conclusion to the question, but rather bring different perspectives to the conversation.

I would start with researching on related videos, articles, and papers, as well as asking this question to people around me. My visual arts professors this semester are good resources and I may conduct a few interviews with them. I could also started an online vote for this question and gather their reasoning as well.

Personal Reflection

I started my interactive media path with a peek at the IMA lab on the second floor of the old academic building at ECNU. I was intrigued by the projects my fellow students were doing in the lab, and I learned what IMA is from the only two professors back then, Matthew Belanger and Marianne Petit. I switched from a major in Computer/Electrical Engineering to a double major in Computer Science and Interactive Media Arts. I was fascinated by coding and what a few lines of code can do with Arduino and Processing. I always have the idea of building a robot. From a robot that is controlled by a remote to a robotic arm that is controlled by joysticks, further to the robot tour guide that I wanted to build for NYU Shanghai. Not all robots that I built are successful but my passion for robot has never ceased, which is also why I would like to build a robot for my capstone project.

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