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Bot Boasts the Stroke of Genius

Friday, September 27, 2013

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Industrial painting robots are nothing new, but their strength has always been technical precision and perfect replication—not sophisticated artistry.

Until now. Meet e-David, a humble welding robot turned high-end artistic copycat—the perfect forger, his inventors say.

The brainchild of researchers at Universität Konstanz, DAVID (Drawing Apparatus for Vivid Image Display) hails from the same robotic gene pool as auto assembly line bots.

eDAVID Painting Robot
Images: Universität Konstanz

DAVID signs a painting created under the watchful eye of a camera, computer program and team of human scientists. The camera prompts the program to compute drawing commands to correct errors.

But DAVID's inventors have higher aspirations for him: "Our vision is to build a robot that is able to paint with real color on a real canvas," the team explains on the project website.

Closed-Loop Artistry

Thus, DAVID's developers have endowed him with sensors, a camera, a control computer, and a computer program that produces drawing commands.

Of course, even a robot cannot perfectly execute a complex drawing with real brushes, paints and canvas, so DAVID's camera monitors his progress, capturing his output and prompting the program to compute new drawing commands that correct his errors.

Step by step, the closed-loop system enables DAVID to complete an image: whether a painting or written words (you can even watch DAVID write a poem).

e-DAVID shows his stuff in a presentation by the project development team at Universität Konstanz.

The e-DAVID project research has been published in two journals since last year.

But Why?

What good is a robot forger?

DAVID's developers say they set out with the hypothesis that the "technical part of painting" is an "optimization process in which color is manually distributed on a canvas until the painter is able to recognize the content"—regardless of whether the image is representational.

If a machine can learn how to recognize and replicate those images—and DAVID suggests that it can—that opens the door to creating exceedingly complex visual artworks, scientists say. It can also enlist robots in analyses of drawing styles (even helping to flush out human forgers).

For the industrial sector, DAVID opens the potential for more sophisticated Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) technology. Examples include welding and painting robots, especially in small businesses that need efficient reprogramming and adaptation of robot programs, developers say.

Sim-sational

Possibly most important, inventors say, is the potential for a whole new generation of simulation methods for computer graphics.

DAVID drawings

The series shows DAVID's attempts to make his image (far right) match the original at far left.

"Computer models for color description, their mixture and interaction with the canvas are still very limited," the team writes. "Existing approaches allow this only to a limited extent, especially if complex materials are used."

Furthermore, "there are no methods to compare computer simulations and real artifacts," which "also hinders a thorough evaluation," developers say.

As any number of foremen and project managers can attest, supervising high-quality paint application is no small matter.

Similarly, the developers say, their supervision of e-DAVID "is not trivial since real paint has a number of 3D effects, specular reflection and other disturbing properties."

"A special setup with polarized light from small angles is used to overcome these problems," the team advises. "We will calibrate the images by using spectroscopic methods."

   

Tagged categories: Color; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Equipment; Industrial design; Paint application; Shop-applied coatings

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