Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vangobot

Vangobot is a robotic painting machine that replicates a photo with real paint.


Vangobot can be programmed to simulate various Post-Impressionist and Pop Art styles. The output painting is created on a flatbed apparatus using actual brushes and pigment on canvas.


So far the images are limited by the initial photo and the image processing software, which has the look of an off-the-shelf Photoshop filter. In most of the examples that Vangobot has painted so far, there isn't much blending, so the result has a patchy, mechanical look.

Nevertheless, according to Wired magazine, whose cover feature explores how robots will replace many skilled jobs, Vangobot has produced some pictures that were sold through the Crate and Barrel stores, "whose customers have no clue that a machine was the creative genius behind what's hanging on their wall."


Above painting by Vangobot. Future iterations of such painting machines could enlist more advanced image manipulation such as blending, glazing, computer vision, edge detectionautomated painting, and abstraction generators. In theory it could be set to the task of directly interpreting a 3D view alongside human plein air painters.


---
Vangobot.com by artists Doug Marx and Luke Kelly
Previously on GJ
Computer Vision
Automated Painting
Abstraction generator
Edge detection
Random image generation

50 comments:

L Benson said...

As I've begun making my foray into the digital world I've started thinking about the relationship between programs like painter and photoshop to artistic exploration and creativity. One observation is that these programs (and the Vangobot) are imitative. That is, they mimic traditional media, often quite well. However, the creative discoveries behind those imitations are worked out through human processes. There are also creative discoveries made while using digital media. However, I don't think a "bot" can replace either creative process.

One last thought-- the bots and digital media require the use of a camera for observation and mimicry. The human eye observes in stereo, while a photo is flat. Plein air painting is quite different than painting from a flat photo. Both yield positive results. However, we've all experienced becoming a "slave to the reference." The bot is forever a slave to the reference, while human observation of the real world gives the artist the freedom to explore creative paths a bot would never know how to follow.

Let Crate and Barrel customers buy souless similes of human creativity. It only makes human creativity more valuable.

Cheers,

Linda

D Palumbo said...

In fairness, some human being shot the photo which vangobot painted. those crate and barrel paintings are only manufactured by machines, but the creative descisions still made by a human to a very large degree.

Ravi Gupta said...

interesting!! but it cant replace the artist's vision.

Jan said...

"interesting!! but it cant replace the artist's vision."

Yet.

Like it or not, we're just bilogical machines, our brains and eyes too. Computers will get there one day, an artificial intelligence will be able to envision stuff a human could never do. It's adorable how attached we are to this idea of human uniqueness and "soul".

This robot does what thousands of artists do for a living, paint portraits from photographs. We say it'll never replace human creativity, well yes. It doesn't strive to do so.

Future robots will and they will achieve what we have. Like it, or not. ;)

Johan Derycke said...

Jan,

that is if we haven't destroyed our planet or exterminated ourselves before the time of equally intelligent robots that are able to make decisions autonomously. ;)

Jan said...

Indeed. ;) I have a feeling Roy Batty would've made a helluva painter himself.

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion... I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the tannhauser gate... All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain... Time to die"

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Jan said...

An ad robot in a discussion about robots. How poetic. :D

bryanbeus said...

Jan,

You may be right about AI surpassing us at one point.

I disagree with you, on the other hand, about the existence of a soul.

I don't know how any artist can believe in gestalt theory, that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and can not believe that beyond all the atoms and molecules that make up a person there is something greater, intangible to our regular eyes and hands, and more powerful.

Anonymous said...

It kind of reminds me of stuff Data would paint on Star Trek.

David B. Ellis said...

Bryanbeus, to my ear, your attitude just smacks of disrespect for physicality too often associated with religion and various varieties of spiritualism. Atoms and molecules are wonderous things. So are the minds that result from the activity of the atoms and molecules in our physical brains. We who have no belief in the supernatural lose nothing of significance. Not creativity or love or any of the other wonders of human experience. They're all here in the natural world we live our lives in.

Jan said...

Yeah! What he said. :D

Seriously, I have not yet seen anything that would make me think there's something greater and above the "atoms and molecules".

Such talk usually stems from not really understanding the whole scope of the "atoms and molecules" theory.

Terry Pratchett puts it rather brilliantly in one of his books:

http://blog.gaiam.com/quotes/authors/terry-pratchett/66706

dzart said...

Jan,

You are assuming that we WILL create true AI.

That is not a definite and it's still debatable whether it's even possible.

John Kelley said...

This reminds me of a conversation I had with the owner of a camera shop about 12 years ago. I asked him what he thought about digital cameras... he said they would never replace film.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a bit of J.D. Harding might apply:

By the one, our ideas of Nature are exalted and improved, because he has selected her most striking and most imposing features, - her rarest combinations, - and has intellectually set them before us in works which engross our minds and feelings by a sense of what is impressive and beautiful. Not so by the other; he has taken Nature as he found her - in her everyday dress, - and has given us little more than the most unimaginative observer might see. By the one we learn to feel and to appreciate the sublime and the beautiful; in the works of the other, we see that a laborious and mechanical effort has been made to obtain an exact copy of Nature, without regard to selection - without arrangement, sentiment, or beauty. Persons who are unacquainted with Art admire the works of (X), because they are painted on a level with their capacities; but the works of (Y), from being of a higher order, require that the mind of the Spectator should be cultivated before it can perceive the fulness of their merits, and justly appreciate the talent of the Artist.

- mp

Jan said...

Yes, that does sum up a lot of the objections people have against machines making art. Somehow they can't accept that this sense of beauty, this additional something the artists puts into the work above a "mere" exact capture of reality, is nothing more than a reaction of a brain grown and trained to respond in a certain way and to perform certain actions. Which can certainly be done by a a properly made and programmed machine. They have to call it soul and hope it's truly outside our natural reality, otherwise we wouldn't be special.

Ah well.

@Dzart: It is my personal opinion that a "true" AI is an artificial concept, an AI is an AI. I've read a few attempts at a definition of a so called true AI and neither convinced me it's something impossible. Our squishy brains are capable of such a thing, so it's not a physical impossibility. It's just a matter of time and will, imo.

2Dciple said...

I can see how some people would be either worried about this or cheering it on. The former because they fear that they would be made obsolete, the latter because it's one of their little nerd fantasies. I can also see how it would make them some less artistically inadequate because "Hey, the computer draws better than you too, so you skilled artists are in the same boat! lolz"

On the other hand, I don't think anyone with real ability and vision need worry for a good, long, while.

Chris James said...

Excuse me, that's:

"I can also see how it would make some seem less artistically inadequate.."

C.J. Bloomer said...

What might be an interesting twist in this technology if it's further developed is the implications on the print industry. Imagine having one of your favorite artist's works rendered in not only the same media as the original, but also created via the same techniques. I wonder whether that would make the original painting more or less valuable? Would you then be paying for the 'the artist touched this' factor or would there always be that human element that can never be reproduced?

Anonymous said...

Garbage in, garbage out. - mp

Roberto said...

Sentient meat does-not-equal/is-different-than sentient silica. -RQ

Krystal said...

As for me, it is just scarry. I wouldn't like to be in a world where artistic fields are dominated by robots...

Johan Derycke said...

Krystal,

I wouldn't want to die just because robots could paint just like us either.

Guess most of us would just keep on painting just like we do now :D

I don't think a robot will ever be able to give us the feeling of pleasure we get from painting, and the satisfaction of having learned something. Feelings will always be the result of a good painting. For the creator (not necessarily for a viewer), there are feelings involved during creation as well.

David Still said...

Discussions about true AI and soul aside, as this robot is right now, it is not much more than a photoshop filter and a very advanced printer. However, what I find really interesting is the possibilities this technology gives the human artists. Think of a digital painting software that records every brush stroke that a (human) artist makes when painting a picture. Then output that data to the machine, and you have the technology to reproduce (true, human) paintings on a large scale. And before you say that will devalue original paintings, I'm sure people said the same thing about drawings when other reproduction technologies were developed, like etching and lithography. In this scenario, the machine will not be the artist, but merely a medium of expression. That doesn't sound too threatening, does it?

ps. "Please prove you're not a robot" hehehe

Anonymous said...

Well, at least we can give up trying to paint like Sargent now.

Amelia said...

I second what Johan said . . . many people make art simply for the personal satisfaction that it brings to them, without concern for the viewer or the market. That robot painting away over there may turn out to be bad for us folks who make a living from art, but no matter at all for those who make art for themselves. I don't think art-making will disappear just because commercial art is made by AI.

Also, my guess is that once the culture has been thoroughly saturated in AI art, there will again be a market for the handmade (including digital art created by an actual person), just as there is now a market for microbrewery beer right alongside the industrial stuff. Some people will prefer the AI, some will prefer the human-made.

Craig Banholzer said...

It boggles the mind. These two guys could have been spending their time learning to paint well, but instead they wasted it building a machine that paints very, very badly! Somewhere in the great beyond, Rube Goldberg is smiling.

John B. Sandlin said...

Now we just need a photoshop filter for artistic license - that ability of the human mind to interpret and insert changes to improve or comment on an idea. Like: This city scene needs an airplane flying through it to show human motion.

Lucas Durham said...

Creating art isn't just about what you paint, it's also about what you leave out both intentionally and unintentionally. Until programers design artificial intelligence that is able to make mistakes, I think human artists can rest easy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the bright side to this is that it makes one think how real painting is not about technical skill but about the "heart" and the "soul" in the thing. Look at Van Gogh"s paintings, he didn't have great technical skill but they're great paintings. More than great. They have life in them. And more importantly then anything, they are interesting. For a painting to be interesting is everything. Just because a painting looks like a photo or it looks just like someone, doesn't mean it's interesting. It needs something else. It needs energy in it. Maybe this robot painter thing will make us rethink things a little bit, and try to find out what makes a painting really great besides just looking like a photo and having skillful brushstrokes, which Sargent already mastered and can't be beat at except by machines like this when they are perfected pretty soon. The vangobot will pretty soon be able to make something that looks like a Sargent, but will it ever be able to make something that looks like a Van Gogh? Maybe machines like this will finally completely free painters from the craving for technical perfection, which is so strong and time and thought consuming, and let us dwell on something that may possibly be more important than that. I'm not sure what it is, but maybe it's along the lines of caricature, and the intensification of forms and space and color and emotions and beauty and mystery. To put feeling and life into the thing, besides asking does it look just like the person? Does it have painterly, skillful brushstrokes? Does it look like a Sargent? Maybe, we need to go beyond that in this new millenium to find a way to show the beauty of this earth on a canvas. Thanks for reading this rambling, this was fun to write on this great blog and comments section. Alright, peace everybody. I hope you get a little bit of what I mean.

Todd said...

As someone who has created both robots and art, I think it is important to keep in mind their similarities. Building a machine that does anything is an incredibly creative and rewarding task. Also, anyone who has tried to recreate some aspect of nature with any amount of realism, be it robot or painting, knows how humbling it can be, and how it gives the creator an appreciation of the natural world that is greater than the average person, who takes the complexity of the world around him for granted. It just happens that as technology goes, robots are about as anthropometric as it gets and therefore creates a lot of angst due to their similarity and perceived potential superiority.

Remember that robots, like all technology (and art), represents the intent of human creators, so don't think of it as a mindless machine that duplicated a photo, but rather a couple people who had an idea to create art using a novel tequnique.

Robots will only be able to represent as much of humanity as we understand about ourselves. Given that we are only beginning to understand how our brain's machinery works, it will be a long time before any robot truly mimics it at a level where it can create its own intent. In the end, the fun of building robots is to take that understanding of the world and use it to make something happen, sometimes surprising, sometimes familiar, and sometimes emotional.

That sound like art to me.

Anonymous said...

Looks like vangobot needs to work on his brushwork...

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, we're just bilogical machines
Really? So if we are just biological machines like any other biological machine, and human life isn't special, then for example, someone can murder- sorry, terminate, you and should suffer no more consequence than if they harvested a tomato plant, right?

it's easy to see how such materialistic thinking quickly cheapens human life.

Stop and think about what you are actually saying, and actually believe -it's quite disturbing.

bryanbeus said...

David,

I think you're absolutely right about the wonderful nature of the universe. And there is a lot of which to be amazed even before we examine any existence of a spiritual side of life.

By accepting only the external reality and not believing in a spiritual journey—one that happens within a person's heart, removed from contact with any other ndividual, including prophets, scientists, poets, fathers, mothers, children, etc.—you actually do lose quite a lot.

You miss out on the internal reality, which is just as amazing as the external one.

bryanbeus said...

:) you'll have to keep searching. It's worth it!

KB said...

"Like it or not, we're just bilogical machines"

Great non-sequitur typo!

Yes, we are indeed bi-logical machines.
Like it or not.

David B. Ellis said...

"So if we are just biological machines like any other biological machine, and human life isn't special, then for example, someone can murder- sorry, terminate, you and should suffer no more consequence than if they harvested a tomato plant, right?

it's easy to see how such materialistic thinking quickly cheapens human life."

Tomato plants don't fall in love. They don't look up at the stars in wonder and joy.

The fact that humans are biological machines does not mean that they are insignificant. You are again inserting your bias against the physical into the discussion. Remember that this is not a bias we share. If you want to say that materialism implies murder is OK then you'll have to present an actual argument for the bias you've so far simply assumed without question.

David B. Ellis said...

"By accepting only the external reality and not believing in a spiritual journey—one that happens within a person's heart, removed from contact with any other ndividual, including prophets, scientists, poets, fathers, mothers, children, etc.—you actually do lose quite a lot."

I said I don't believe in the supernatural. The human heart and human experience I know by direct introspection. I simply don't assume that what you refer to as the spiritual has a supernatural basis.

bryanbeus said...

David,

I don't think we want to get too carried away with this discussion here, as it's fairly off topic. I'll reply to your points and I look forward to hearing your response, and we can leave it there.

First:
For the sake of the argument, what if there is a supernatural power in the universe and you just haven't discovered it—are you interested in finding it?
I'm not asking whether or not you believe right now, just if you are open to considering it.

Second:
"Tomato plants don't fall in love." etc.
Well... it depends on how you look at it. They do reproduce, and they do grow in communities, etc. What is love? Can you create an empirical, all-inclusive definition for it? If it's just atoms, molecules, and electrons firing off in our brains and bodies in a certain pattern, why is that pattern any better than another kind of pattern happening in a tomato?
There are compelling scientific arguments right now showing that plants have consciousnesses. Does that spell trouble for moral-vegetarians?
You have some definition of morality in you, something that makes human molecule-compounds sacred to you but a tomato's expendable. That sense of morality is the starting point of getting to know the supernatural, as by very definition this moral law influencing your decisions is 'Above' your carnal Nature. That is, super-natural.

Finally (you set yourself up for this):
How did you get past the "prove you're not a robot" test? Cheater... ;) (j/k)

David B. Ellis said...

First point:

If sound reasons to believe in the supernatural arise I'd be happy to discover them.

"Well... it depends on how you look at it. They do reproduce, and they do grow in communities, etc."

Love is a mental state. Tomatoes have no minds and therefore no emotions.

"What is love?"

Do we really need to debate what love is? We've both, presumably, experienced love and therefore know what people are referring to when they talk about falling in love.

"Can you create an empirical, all-inclusive definition for it?"

Why would I do that? I never claimed that only what can be observed with the senses exists and, of course, love, being an emotional state, is not an object observed with the senses.

I did not say I don't believe in minds. I said I don't believe in the supernatural.

"If it's just atoms, molecules, and electrons firing off in our brains and bodies in a certain pattern, why is that pattern any better than another kind of pattern happening in a tomato?"

The mental state called love is intrinsically valuable (that is, love is of value because of what it is like to experience love---it needs no sanction other than it's own intrinsic nature). Surely both supernaturalists and naturalists can agree that love is of value in and of itself.

David B. Ellis said...

"There are compelling scientific arguments right now showing that plants have consciousnesses."

Could you be more specific?

"You have some definition of morality in you, something that makes human molecule-compounds sacred to you but a tomato's expendable."

Only that which can have experiences is morally significant. I can about animals because they can suffer. They want to live, etc. Rocks and tomatoes don't, so far as I know, have experiences. If I find that they do, much as I doubt that will happen, they would become part of my circle of moral concern.

"That sense of morality is the starting point of getting to know the supernatural, as by very definition this moral law influencing your decisions is 'Above' your carnal Nature. That is, super-natural."

Again with the devaluing of the physical and the natural. My capacity for empathy and reason (the basis of my moral viewpoint) is, so far as I can tell, quite natural.

David B. Ellis said...

"Finally (you set yourself up for this):
How did you get past the "prove you're not a robot" test?"

Obviously, the only way I could distinguish myself from a robot capable of passing the Turing test, if that's what you're referring to, is to meet someone in the flesh.

Not that I can see why it's relevant to the points we've been debating.

bryanbeus said...

Good to read. Interesting conversation.

Since you asked:
"What love is" is absolutely relevant when deciding what/who is capable of it and what that means for his/her/its survival. I find love to be so various and complex that I couldn't possibly draw a line in the sand as a sure measure by which to judge another's.
This discussion, however, is perhaps for another time and another place.

Next:
Ted.com had a talk recently in which a scientist presented evidence that shows plants have animalistic, conscientious behavior. I'm on my iPod right now, so looking it up is too inconvenient, but if you can't find it let me know and I'll go searching.

David B. Ellis said...

Again, we both know what people mean when they talk about falling in love. Debating the definition is, therefore, not particularly useful. Especially when discussing whether plants fall in love.

More useful would be discussion of the supposed evidence for plant consciousness. So far, you've presented none.

bryanbeus said...

David:
Clearly you're a much smarter person than I am.

Here's the TED.com talk I referred.
http://www.ted.com/talks/stefano_mancuso_the_roots_of_plant_intelligence.html

I'll love to hear what you think of it.

David B. Ellis said...

The talk describes some quite fascinating things plants do. I didn't hear anything that amounted to good evidence for plant consciousness though.

David B. Ellis said...

It seems to amount to the claim:

Plants do amazingly complex things. Therefore plants are conscious.

But doing amazingly complex things isn't particularly well correlated with consciousness. My body is doing millions of amazingly complex things every second and I'm conscious of almost none of them.

bryanbeus said...

David,

We're back to 'how do you define consciousness, love' etc.

It's been fun talking with you. Perhaps we'll get another chance to discuss it sometime.

Best - B

David B. Ellis said...

No, actually I'm NOT asking you to define consciousness since you and I both speak english and understand the normal usage of the word. I'm wondering what evidence you consider a sound basis for the belief that plants experience mental states of some sort.

For example:

Do you believe plants can experience pain?

If so, what experiments or evidence convinces you of this?

If you don't want to go into it, that's fine. I wouldn't want to try to defend that proposition either.

gregemmerich said...

has anyone actually purchased a Vangobot painting from Crate & Barrel? I can't find any support for that claim