Video Of A Human Artist And Artificially Intelligent Robotic Arm Sketching The Same Bust Simultaneously

February 14, 2018


This is 'Way To Artist', a short film created by TeamVOID starring a human artist and a robotic arm armed(!) with an artificial intelligence system (still better than being armed with a rocket launcher) sketching the same polygonal style male bust at the same time. *shrug* Should have been a nude.

Without a word spoken, film loudly questions the role that artificial intelligence has within the creative process by putting the robots to the test.

the emergence of artificial intelligence has some believing that artwork could be created by robots. In connection with this, the work involves drawings executed by a robot and a human, each with different drawing skills. In the process, it reconsiders the general meaning of the drawing activity.

Yeah I don't know about any of that but what I do know is I just painted a picture of a robot using condiment packets I found in the break room. Well, what do you think? "It has a ninja sword in its back." And? "And you're pushing it into a volcano." Somebody call the Louvre, tell them $10 million is cool but they have to supply their own frame.

Keep going for the video.

Thanks to DL, who agrees the only purpose of robotic artists is creating perfect forgeries.

  • Bling Nye

    I don't think this is as deep or philosophical as the film makers wish it was; I get the impression they managed to get access to the robot for whatever reason and came up with this short film as a reason to use it. It seems like a college film class project, I'd give it a C-. Isn't the robot just basically an expensive printer at that point? It's just replicating the image it "sees". What would happen for example if someone stood in front of the bust? Or removed it and put their own face in its place halfway through? I think they could've gone much farther with this.

  • Northwest Photography

    What the robot did was not art. It did not make creative decisions it took in data from contrasts and reproduced the values onto the paper. At the very beginning of being an artist that is all you are doing to build the skills of shading, perspective, and color but once you have those skills you can begin to use them creatively. Also, the images that a robot creates will have no meaning infused in them. A lot of the art that we interact with in a day to day basis is created solely for purpose of advertising. That is the kind of art a robot could make but when it comes to creative self expression AI is a long long way from doing that.

  • Daniel Holstein

    I agree with most of your assessment. But how far away is AI from creative self-expression, really? You claim that AI is "a long long way" from being capable of creative self-expression, but I don't think we have a good handle on what creative self-expression really is. (As in, what really happens in a mind, made of cells and action potential, that leads to self-expression?).

    The robot is doing more than you claim, too. It is also, in most likelihood, able to perceive its progress in its drawing. It is making a self-assessment. I'm betting that its self-assessment is pretty straightforward. But I can imagine a not-so-distant future in which the robot would be able to detect errors in its drawing, and to decide to correct or incorporate those errors as it drew. Aggregate these errors and decisions, and that robot is getting pretty darn close to self-expression, in my opinion.

  • Northwest Photography

    Well, that is somewhat my point. The human brain is still a new land for us to discover so what are the chances that we will be able to create and AI that closely resembles the full ability of a brain in the near future.

    What that robot is doing is little more than what a scanner printer does. It has a camera, it looks for values of contrast and matches those contrasts of the paper. There is no self expression or any kind of expression at all. It is a one for one copy of what it sees. Unless you consider programming so be a form of self.

    If a robot looked the model and then made the choice interpret what it saw and, with out human influence, purposefully invents its own style (like humans have with cubism, abstract, minimalism etc.) then I would say that it has an autonomous self.

    The robot does not choose to draw. We turn it on and run a program that we have written for it. It did not teach it self to draw, it did not have a desire for expression (which is why humans created art). That is no more than an expensive copy machine that has less of a sense of self than a Tardigrade.

  • Bling Nye

    Algorithms mimic creativity easily these days. Images created by a robot can have as little or as much meaning ascribed to them as the eye of the beholder chooses.

  • Northwest Photography

    But does meaning begin with the creator of the art or the beholder of the art? Can AI find meaning or express meaning in what it created?

  • Bling Nye

    What do you think? I think an artist creates something, which may or may not have meaning to them. Some art is highly personal, some "art" is literally shat out.

    I believe ultimate meaning in art is placed there by those that perceive it. The artist creates and releases their creation to the world, and it is no longer in their hands. They may try and follow it around like a helicopter parent and tell people what they think it means, but they can't do that forever, and more often than not, it will be (if they're lucky enough to have their art remain in public view) random passers by that see it and think what they will of it.

    Maybe there will be a placard by the art that attempts to explain the artist's intent, maybe it will be read, maybe it won't. Ultimately it doesn't much matter what the artists intent or meaning behind the art was, and I think if artists are honest with themselves, they'll see that.

    Which means AI finding meaning or not with their art is essentially a moot point.

  • Northwest Photography

    I have never met and artist who did not create something without meaning or desire for creating. And that really is my point. AI ,at the moment. has no desire to create or express meaning. WE create these algorithms to have it create these pictures. The AI has no feelings or desires to do it.

    I agree that we will all interpret an artwork differently and most of the time we will walk away from it with a different meaning than the artist intended to express but that is a part of being human. The fact that we can see a sunset, which we know scientifically how the colors are created and why, doesn't mean WE can't find meaning in it.

    I don't think you can just correlate beauty with art because art is an expression of something felt. If you draw your feelings in stick figures that is art. It may not be good technically good art but it still counts as a for of self expression.

    It's not that I don't think that we can find meaning or beauty in the work that AI creates but to call it "art" trivializes humanity creative ability. We still have to tell the AI what is good or bad. They may make 100 algorithmic paintings with no sense of what it made and it takes us to tell it what is good or bad.

  • Bling Nye

    A program can be designed to 'want' to create. A human baby has no desire to create or express meaning, until it learns to do so.

    I think you agree, meaning is ultimately within the eye of the beholder, regardless of whom (artist or viewer).

    No, you can't correlate beauty with art, because art can be dark, horrible and ugly and still be art.

    I'd say artists also have to figure out what's good or bad too, and it takes the public to tell them that. It's the same metric of good and bad, for AI and humans, is it not?

    Humanity overrates itself. It began with the anthropomorphism of "god" and it continued with humans thinking of themselves above all other life, real or artificial.

    As Ollie mentioned with the Bower bird, there is much in nature that is artful.

    Ultimately what is called "art" is called so by the person viewing the matter, regardless of the creator's humanity or lack there of. Because I've seen "art" called "art" by the artist, when to me it looked nothing like what I'd call "art".

  • Northwest Photography

    Baby's have not desire to "create" but they do have plenty of desire for self expression. Art is not limited to drawing, painting, or sculpture. Dancing, singing, poetry, prose, are all forms of expression.

    I think meaning is a chicken and egg situation.Though I would stay that the meaning and desire have to exist before the art is created because that is the drive to create it. So to me, art begins inside the artist.

    Whether it is deemed good or bad by the public does not make something art or not. It only means that that artist will have food on their table and a roof over their head.

    I am not saying that AI can never be an artist. I am just saying that we are further from it than we think and a robotic arm copying what it sees or a human created algorithm creating colorful paintings do not count as AI expressing itself through art.

    I think that every human is an artist, Ask a little kid if they can dance, draw, paint, or sing and they will all say they can and begin to show you. We all have the ability for self expression but it gets stifled as we grow up because we give it the value of good or bad.

    I think everyone should draw, sing, and dance because it has been an important part of the evolution of humanity. I don't think everyone should be a recording artist or in a gallery in new york but we should all practice art as it is an important form of self expression.

  • Bling Nye

    I'm going to be an ass for a second and just point out (mostly ignoring the philosophical intent of the question) that the egg came first. Egg laying organisms, and therefore eggs, existed before chickens. But I digress.

    What about 'accidental' art? No intent, but holy shit that tea spilled across the canvas looks amazing!

    I totally get where you're coming from, and I'm mostly just Devil's Advocating; I mean, by the same token, the artist is doing what the robot is, which is duplicating what they see to the best of their ability to do so. If we want to really see the differences between the two, they should attempt to modify or include the bust in a larger setting to allow for some creative liberties, rather than straight duplication.

    I can absolutely 100% unequivocally agree with your last paragraph, I think too that everyone should draw, sing and dance, no matter the skill level; self-expression at all ages is very important in my opinion.


  • Daniel Holstein

    "Meaning" implies symbology, and AI can definitely handle symbols. It's the richness of those symbols that results in "meaning".

    Question: If an artist and an AI made two indiscernible artworks, would one be art, and the other not?

  • Northwest Photography

    Meaning goes beyond just symbology. AI can understand that a huge line of code means it should execute a program but can it understand meanings that are not as direct as code?

    Can it understand the meaning hidden in sarcasm, double meanings, innuendo, or analogy? Not yet. Im not saying that it cant in the future but it cant right now.

    It can know what a swastika is. It can know every time it is used in history and by what culture and during what time period but can it understand the meaning it would have to a Jewish person? or a German person? or a Neo nazi? It cant extract meaning from the data that is has but if I told you the history of Nazi Germany you could tell me what the meaning a swastika would have for those people groups without me having to tell you.

    Just look at the Microsoft twitter AI. It had no problem repeating the most vile, hateful, racist tweets on twitter because those words had no meaning. It was just data. It could did not learn to not say those things until it was programmed not to.

    As to your question. The only way that AI could create a drawing or painting that was indiscernible from a humans would be if it did a 1 for 1 copy of the humans art. Even the AI that can create art in the style of Rembrandt can only do so is because it has scanned all of his work. It has no sense of what it's making.

    So yes, to me one would be art while the other would be a machine with a program designed by humans to repeat the outcome of a human.

  • Ollie Williams

    "when it comes to creative self expression AI is a long long way from doing that." I'm not saying your wrong, but unless you have a vast understanding of AI at this point in its existence, you may be overstepping your knowledge. I've seen "art" made by a computer that is absolutely unique and, if put in a gallery and labeled a digital painting made by a human, no one would question it. I'm not sure emotion from an artist is a requirement for art. AI made image:

  • Northwest Photography

    Well your getting into what the definition of "art" is. If you are talking about the mechanics of doing art. Putting colors on some sort of digital or physical canvas then, yes, AI can do art. But when we see the random clouds of gasses in space as beautiful but no hand painted them and we would not describe them as art.

    Art has to do with expression not just beauty. AI can use algorithms to create random colors shapes or even copy shapes that WE interpret at beautiful but I don't think that they can be considered art as it is defined as "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."

    Art has to have some sort of creative or expressive element to be considered art. Again I am not saying that what AI could create is not beautiful but I do not think it fits in the definition of "Art".

  • Ollie Williams

    It's difficult argue against, and define and classify something as subjective as art, when we're the ones making the rules. I don't agree with that definition. I feel the designs that a Bower bird creates to attract a female fall into the category of "art" just as much as any other physical art installation, but it doesn't conform to the definition because it wasn't created by a human. For procreation or not, it certainly is appreciated for its beauty or emotional power by the female Bower, otherwise the act wouldn't need to exist, and any display would attract any Bower bird without question, and that's clearly not the case, as some females prefer one over the other.

  • Northwest Photography

    I would not say that art is subjective but our preference for art is subjective. If art is a form of expression than a simple stick figure drawing is art. It may not be good technically, as in the skill of the artist, but it was an expression of something felt.

    At this point in time I do not know of any AI that organically feels anything out side of that data we tell it to. We are the ones who ascribe meaning to the decisions AI makes. When the AI bot on twitters algorithm becomes racist, sexist, and homophobic it does not know it is. Even when we ascribe meaning to the letters arranged in specific orders and create restrictions to not say those words it still has no inner sense of the meaning of those words.

    I would agree that the Bowerbird performs a form of art as it is a method of self expression. Horny primitive art. The difference would be that, as far as I know, there arn't some bowerbirds who just say fuck the system, never partake in the mating ritual. They only express that one feeling or inner impulse.

    Humans can express all their inner felt experience through multiple form of expression. Obviously, we are more evolved than them.

    I would say though, that AI isn't even at the point of expression of the bowerbird. It has no inner impulses or desires that are not put into it by us. Really that is what most people fear about AI is that they will get to a point where they are organically making meaning outside of human perimeters or desires.

  • The_Wretched

    The human just bails @80% of the way?

  • Meh

    What a shitty video, they don't even show the results side by side.

  • Video is garbage. It cuts back and forth to them starting and being halfway done, but neither finish? WTF?

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