Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Robo Picasso

Robo Picasso
Do androids dream of electric canvases? Hartford artist Eric Rautio aims to find out.
by Adam Bulger - April 14, 2005

A laptop computer played techno in the paint-splattered studio at the Hartford School of Art on the University of Hartford campus. I was watching an artist paint. It was the artist's first project, a self-portrait, drawn in straight, deliberate lines. It was slow and noisy work. I wondered after a while if the painter was getting frustrated, then remembered that it lacked the capacity for frustration.

The artist was a machine named ART Painter. ART Painter is a robot, perhaps the first artificial being imbued with a creative impulse. ART stands for Adaptive Resonance Theory, the synthetic neural system that it runs on

"I bought a lot of stuff at Home Depot and hacked it all together," ART Painter inventor Eric Rautio explained. Rautio, 25, is a technology-obsessed artist currently in his second year of an MFA in painting. He's a smart, intense guy who slips into incomprehensible technical jargon in the middle of a conversation.

"When people see a painting, they think 'this is something a machine can't do,'" Rautio said. People probably rarely think that consciously, but it is an underlying assumption of the difference between man and machine. Art is commonly understood as the expression of the soul; machines are obviously soulless.

To mimic this creative process through ART Painter, Rautio feeds data into the computer that is, for lack of a better term, ART's brain. The data comes from many different sources -- there's a function on ART Painter's website that allows anyone to input sketches that ART Painter can incorporate into future works. It can also accept photos, get data from a webcam, and Rautio excitedly said, hopefully ART would someday be able to translate music into code it could use in its paintings. The input becomes for ART like the memories that artists use to create their art.

Hartford Advocate: Robo Picasso


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