This Motion Capture Robot Could One Day Paint a Masterpiece

Researchers at Keio University have developed a motion capture robot that can record and reproduce the entire velocity of an expert calligrapher's brush strokes. This could lead to improvements to the way robots learn skills, and lead to a pretty handy robo-surgical helper someday.

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DigInfo reports that the robot "learns" the brush strokes by mechanically copying them and then recording the motion as data. The dextrous machine can then reproduce the motion just as fluidly as when it was originally performed:

This system stores calligraphy movements by using a brush where the handle and tip are separate. The two parts are connected, with the head as the master system and the tip as the slave system. Characters can be written by handling the device in the same way as an ordinary brush.

Calligraphy is a particularly challenging test activity because while copying an actual character is relatively easy, the nuance of a calligrapher's motions are what set him apart from a machine. In the future, this technology could be used to record, store, and download all sorts of actions on demand. That means that one day, Pollocks could be painted from hard drives, or surgeries could be performed by Johnny 5. [DigInfo via DesignBoom]

DISCUSSION

Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte's last computer program worked something like this, except it used a Sylvania tablet for input and drew its output on an ARDS. It started by echoing and saving what the user drew, then it switched over and started replaying relocated subsets of the saved data and pressure info. It actually did capture an individual's style and recreated it. It was written in an ancient dialect of Fortran, and was probably the last program he wrote. Serious fund raising and organization building doesn't allow a lot of time for hacking.