Vincent van Bot: the robots turning their hand to art

painter dips a small paintbrush into a cup of black paint, creating an impressionist portrait of a smiling old woman. With the skill of an old master, e-David is a one-arm robot powered by a PC, five paintbrushes and a palette of 24 colors. He takes photos as he paints, calculating where to lighten or darken his masterpiece, showing that artworks made by robots are not only made by the programmer.

Built by University of Konstanz professor Oliver Deussen, e-David is now competing alongside 25 other robots for the first-ever Robot Art contest, which battles for best artwork.

“We’re so early with the possibilities of robots and art, the sky is the limit,” said the competition founder, Andrew Conru. “It’s refreshing to see technology in action.”

It’s a change of scenery to see the audience voting for best artwork in an art world built on elitist values and big bucks. The public voting opened on Monday and winners will be announced 15 May.

“I believe art is not necessarily defined by art critics, it’s defined by how people define meaning and enjoyment,” says Conru, an early dotcom entrepreneur and 19th-century art collector, he says he began the contest to merge his love of art and technology.

“The musicality of visual art has always resonated with me,” he says on the phone from Seattle. “And I’ve always been interested in applying technology, be it applying industrial design or making the world we live in more aesthetically pleasing.”

Powered by Conru’s not-for-profit organization, which funds innovative ideas that are overlooked by profit-driven investors, the winning proceeds of $100,000 will go to schools or charities for the winning painting bots, which are created by school teams.

“The real mission is to inspire students to look at technology and be creative,” said Conru.


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