This Robot Is Probably Better at Art Than You

Robots: great for a lot of things, not so much for having autonomous feelings or thoughts, widely believed to be crucial for making art (an increasingly contested point). While we've seen plenty of toasters draw and sculpt based on human direction or input from a camera, BNJMN is one of the first to generate his own imagery.


The robot artisté (or the "mobile sensory image production mechanism," if you want to get technical) was built by Travis Purrington and Danilo Wanner, two MA students in visual communication at the Basel Academy of Art and Design. His parts are fairly simple: two wheels, an Arduino board, a handful of servos, and two aluminum arms that each hold an ink pen. He also has touch and light sensors, which help him search for paper nearby. When he finds it, he selects two colors and goes to town—using a random series of movements generated by his Arduino UNO brain. "Usually he takes two colors that are fairly similar and puts them next to each other," says a fan in a short mockumentary about the bot. "They provoke a lot of emotions."

The tone of the video should definitely be taken as a tongue-in-cheek parody, especially the choice to refer to BNJMN as a "he" rather than an "it." And obviously, though there's no human behind the wheel, BNJMN is still making choices based on roughly 500 lines of code.

Still, even robots are prone to impulsive acts of creativity: "[He often pauses] in what appears to be a contemplation of his next stroke," explain his makers. "Sometimes he signs the floor (of course a robot doesn't mind such minor details) and continues off on his merry way to create more art." [AnimalNY]


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