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This Robot Draws Like a Human

Can a robot make real art? With the line drawing 'Paul-IX' robot, artist Patrick Tresset is finding out.

Can robots make art that comments on the human condition? That's a question artist and researcher Patrick Tresset asks with Paul-IX, an automated sketch-bot that turns visual data into "hand drawn" pen sketches. If robots can be designed to make humans empathize with them, might they be just a hop, skip, and a hydraulically enhanced jump away from empathizing with us?

Tresset has been working with artmaking robots for years, an ongoing exploration we covered in 2011 when robots Paul and Peter were on display at London's Tenderpixel Gallery. Back then, Paul was young, barely into Version I, but it was still captivating to see it use facial recognition technology to isolate a visitor's visage, then reproduce it in ink as a carefully calculated line drawing. Now the sketch-bot has matured into Paul-IX, learning all sorts of new art tricks due to Tresset's ongoing robotics research, which earned the automaton a place at the Goldsmiths University Creative Machines exhibition from today through Nov. 14.

Tresset's research combines innovations into actual robotic design and investigates the ways that people look at art. In his self-titled book, he writes, "The technological element of my practice aims to develop computational systems capable of autonomously producing artifacts that stand as artworks." He evaluates the results based on his own artistic sensibilities, as well as through surveys from critics, curators, and fellow artists. What he has created with Paul-IX is a robot that can autonomously interpret the world around, to create a unique artistic vision. "Their style is not a pastiche but rather an interpretation influenced by the robots' characteristics," Tresset tells The Creators Project.

While he had developed young Paul as a "creative prosthetic" to help him overcome a debilitating case of painter's block, the most recent iteration "passes time by drawing a still life from observation," Tresset says, a distinct difference between a human-aiding machine and a machine capable of independent creativity. The artist asks, "What is the point for such a robot to dedicate its existence to drawings that comment on human existence, rather than be a utilitarian slave as expected of it?" But alas, Tresset doesn't give—or perhaps even want—an answer to that question.

See Paul pass time, and the product of his work, in the video and images below:

Paul-IV.a, FASTE-2, Creil, France, 2014, photo by Patrick Tresset

5 Robots Named Paul drawing Patrick, 2012, (Paul-iii.a,b,c,d,e) photo by Tommo

6 Robots Named Paul exhibition, 2012, photo by Tommo

Visit Tresset's website, or read his extensive documentation of Paul, to learn more.

Related:

Meet "Paul" and "Pete," The Sketching Robots

Could You Empathize With A Robot?

Robot Film "Construct" Could Change Everything You Know About CGI

e-David: A Painting Robot That Can Even Sign Its Own Name