Rapid advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are resulting in some interesting developments lately – particularly in the realm of creativity. The question of whether machines can actually produce art is amatter of debate
, but it's certainly true that robots and A.I. systems around the planet are engaging in traditionally creative endeavors -- painting, writing, composing music, even dancing. We take a look at some recent developments in the emerging world of creative machines.
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University of Konstanz
Painting robots have been around for several decades now, but recent developments in image recognition have elevated the process to a whole new level. The2016 RobotArt
contest features cutting-edge robotics systems that not only paint with brush and canvas, but use built-in cameras to evaluate and modify paintings in progress -- just as a painter steps back from the easel. TheeDavid system
, from the University of Konstanz in Germany, does just that.
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In an intriguing variation on the painting robot theme, an international team of researchers has developed a kind of“smart” spray paint can
for creating large murals. Just wave the can in front of a wall or large canvas and the nozzle triggers on its own, recreating any digital image fed into the system.
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Developed by an all-star squad of European university scientists, the newDeepArt
online service creates original images in the style of famous artists. More than just a photo filter, the system uses advanced neural networking A.I technology to create original artworks when given a source image and a sample from a particular artist – Van Gogh, say.
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Algorithmic composition is the emerging designation for music that is composed largely by artificial intelligence or dedicated computer programs.David Cope
, professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has developed several A.I. systems that can generate complete orchestral compositions.
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Robots are making progress in the performing arts as well. The traveling spectacle known asZ-Machines
is a robotic rock power trio designed by engineers from the University of Tokyo. The band consists of March, a 78-fingered guitarist; Ashura, a 22-armed drummer, and Cosmo, who plays his keyboard setup with lasers.
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Creative writing is an activity that would seem uniquely human, but once again we find the robots are making inroads. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a system calledScheherazade
that combines crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence to generate choose-your-own-adventure-style stories.
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John McCormick / YouTube
It turns out A.I. can dance, too. In this still image from the performance pieceEmergence
, a human dancer performs a duet with an “artificially intelligent performance agent” developed at Deakin University in Australia. The neural-network performance agent, projected on a screen,reacts in real-time
to the dancer's movement and style by way of motion-capture technology.
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The art of sculpture -- defined as visual art in three dimensions -- dates all the way back to the Paleolithic era. Robots are relatively new to the game, but both individual artists and modern commercial outfits regularly use robotic systems to create original sculptures. Here, a robot from the British water jet sculptorsAquacut
puts the finishing touches on a laser-scanned bust. You can see a video of the entire processhere
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Queen Mary University
The art of the joke is one area where A.I. has particular trouble. Aresearch project
at Virginia Tech is attempting to instruct neural networks how to recognize basic cartoons and funny clip art, and the results are not encouraging. (Presumably, decoding inscrutableNew Yorker cartoons
is at least a generation away.) Then there'sRoboThespian
, pictured above, a stand-up comedian robot developed by the Cognitive Science Research Group at Queen Mary University of London. Its open-mic gig didn't go well, either.
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