The Menlo Roundtable

Robot Artist

As technology replaces and disrupts various jobs, both white and blue-collar, many wonder what its limit is. Although creative tasks appear to be safe from automation, we explore the hypothesis that physical art can also be created by robots.

The inspiration for this project came from the developing trend of non-conformist art that defies art’s classical definitions. For example, a banana duct-taped to a wall was once valued at $120,000 (at least, before another artist decided to eat it). If art is entirely up to interpretation, we wanted to stretch its boundaries by producing a new form of art. The purpose was to determine whether a machine is capable of producing realistic, physical art without human aid, meaning that the artist could simply continue drawing new images without instruction. This level of autonomy was meant to simulate a human artist. If it can do so, there appears to be no reason that its products should not be considered authentic, given the open-ended and creative nature of the field.

We realized that the technology behind AI “creativity” is quite new, so there is still plenty of space for exciting research into the topic. We had in mind how interesting it would be to watch a robot draw out a realistic image that had never been seen by the world before. Additionally, we saw the potential for making the artist design aesthetic in itself by constructing the entire project with wood, rather than traditionally used materials like metal and plastic. This project also presented a fantastic opportunity to learn more about mechanical design and engineering while implementing a new computer science algorithm.

Photo: Adobe Stock