Industrial robot to try its hand at sketching portraits


February 21, 2012

An industrial robot has been modified to autonomously create pencil sketches of human subjects

An industrial robot has been modified to autonomously create pencil sketches of human subjects

Pity the poor industrial robot. It spends countless hours toiling away at mindless manual labor, never getting a chance to explore its creative side. Well, next month at the CeBIT digital technology trade show, one such robot will get the opportunity. When visitors to the Fraunhofer display take a seat on a provided stool, one of the company's industrial robots will create a pencil sketch of them, then hold up the finished product for everyone to see.

The installation was created by artists from the robotlab group, at the Center for Art and Media, located in the German city of Karlsruhe. They collaborated with scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation, which is where the robot works. On a typical day there, it will move its light sensor-equipped arm in an arc around a product that's designed to be reflective (such as a child's safety reflector), assessing how well it returns light to a light source.

At CeBIT, it will start each portrait session by taking a still image of its human subject, using a camera mounted on its arm - that arm will also hold a pencil. It will then analyze that image using edge-processing software, to identify areas of contrast on and around the person's face. The team had to tweak the algorithm in order to make sure that the robot identified obvious objects such as eyes, but didn't concentrate too much on things like wrinkles. In the last step of the drawing process, the identified areas of contrast will be translated into coordinates, dictating the movements of the robot's pencil-wielding arm.

It should take the robot about ten minutes to create each sketch.

CeBIT takes place March 6th to 10th in Hanover, Germany.

Source: Fraunhofer

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Oh come on! I used to work the robot drawing at EPCOT in the 80s. It\'s ANCIENT technology! They took it out because it did such a terrible job and those with dark skin looked like monsters by the time that thing got done!

Belinda Contague

Can it sharpen the pencil as well?

Philip Morgan

But of course it lacks the feelings which \"real\" artists put into their work, this is the difference between a photo and art...


Sorry agulesin, but great photos ARE great art and the people who produce them are great artists.

Charles Slavens
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