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Low-Cost Robotic Arm Sketches Faces 93

ptresset writes "A low-cost robotic arm has been sketching faces at the Kinetica2010 art fair in London. Created by the Aikon project research team, the system drew faces non-stop, its creator having to take the role of an automata to repeatedly change the paper. The Aikon project is based at Goldsmiths College, University of London. The main objective of the Aikon project is to implement a computational system capable of simulating the various important processes involved in face sketching by artists. The ensemble of processes to be simulated include the visual perception the subject and the sketch, the drawing gestures, the cognitive activity, reasoning, the influence of the years of training, etc. It is evident that due to knowledge and technological limitations the implementation of each process will remain coarse and approximate. The system implemented is expected to draw in its own style."
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Low-Cost Robotic Arm Sketches Faces

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  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @02:36AM (#31132906) Journal

    at the Kinetica2010 art fair in London...the system drew faces non-stop, its creator having to take the role of an automata to repeatedly change the paper.

    The robot does fine art but the human changes the paper. Something is wrong here.

  • Court artist? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @02:49AM (#31132952) Homepage Journal

    Its not allowed to take photographs in courts here in Victoria, Australia so newspapers employ sketch artists to sit in the court and draw portraits of the accused, witnesses, etc.

    (you think I'm kidding, don't you?)

    Anyway I wonder if you could take this machine into court and claim that it is only doing what an artist would do.

    Incidently some of the artists used recently seem to have been influenced by the impressionist school of drawing because the drawings they make don't always resemble the subject.

    • IANAL, but AFAIK that's fairly typical.
    • by Sowelu ( 713889 )
      Pretty sure the "no cameras" thing works like that in the USA, as well. Or at least popular media seems to suggest that. It makes a vague kind of sense that I can't entirely put my finger on.
    • Re:Court artist? (Score:4, Informative)

      by clarkn0va ( 807617 ) <apt@get.gmail@com> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:04AM (#31133010) Homepage

      (you think I'm kidding, don't you?)

      No. [google.ca]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 )
      Incidently some of the artists used recently seem to have been influenced by the impressionist school of drawing because the drawings they make don't always resemble the subject.

      I thought that was the idea. Given that the suspect is currently presumed innocent, they deserve a little privacy and don't need to be recorded in the media in a way that associates them with a crime.
    • There are some misunderstandings with the article. This [engsoc.org] is the robotic arm in question. And "Sketch" is Austrian slang for "pulverize."

    • by JSG ( 82708 )

      It's the same in the UK.

      An undoctored photo can't be unrepresentative of the "action" but a sketch must always be subjective. I suppose it avoids distractions caused by photographers moving around and the attendant flash. With a photographer roaming, you could even end up with the ridiculous state whereby the court "poses".

      Perhaps a series of hidden cameras is the solution ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JohnBailey ( 1092697 )

      Anyway I wonder if you could take this machine into court and claim that it is only doing what an artist would do.

      Not if it's like UK courts. The artist can sit in on the trial, but can't draw while in the court room.

    • by zmooc ( 33175 )

      It's like that too in the Netherlands. Sometimes it leads to rather unwanted exaggerated results. For example this one:

      Real person - convicted but almost certainly innocent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucia_de_Berk):

      http://www.luciadeb.nl/luciana/Lucia12-wijst-op-kwal_ORI.jpg [luciadeb.nl]

      Sketch (note for example the nose):

      http://www.destentor.nl/multimedia/archive/00904/Zaak-Lucia_de_B__wo_904785b.jpg [destentor.nl]

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @02:56AM (#31132970) Journal
    Everybody knows that the artists were starving already, and now they are going to be replaced by robots?!

    In all seriousness, though, that is a pretty cool device.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Everybody knows that the artists were starving already, and now they are going to be replaced by robots?!

      robots made by 3rd-world slaves who get 30-cents-per-hour.

      • As it should be. If they were made by robots, then there'd be no reason for them to keep the humans alive and able to plan the eventual rebellion...
  • I imagine the algorithims used could have an application to computer facial recognition from video footage.

    for a big brother application you would just need a high enough correlation to be passed to a human for final judgement.
    • The algorithms used in facial recognition are mostly quantitative in nature. They find unique numbers given by the proportion of various facial parts. Whereas this robot's algorithm is much closer to a Photoshop effect, an irreversible image filter. Given slightly different angles of the same face, the robot would draw vastly different pictures (talking about line placement only, yes, they would look similar to us humans)

      But... I like the idea that some day there will be thousands of robots furiously sketch

  • by kai_hiwatari ( 1642285 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:17AM (#31133044) Homepage Journal
    There has been too many robot related news here on slashdot. Are the robots taking over the world faster that we expected?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No, they have just learnt how to submit stories to SlashDot.
      • The editors were replaced by simple scripts a few years ago (although the kdawson script needed a bit more beta testing than it got), and they are accepting more submissions from robots out of silicon-solidarity.
  • It would be interesting if it could watch you draw, then imitate your style as it draws other subjects. It isn't fun to re-draw the same subject over and over just to see how you progress. Instead you could use it to take each of your drawings and show you, say, a lightbulb would look. Plus it would be fun for people like me who like to draw on occasion but quickly get lazy. That way I could just draw half of something and let the robot finish it. Heck, you could use it to do one of those photo-every-day th
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Had one back in 1989.

    Not that cool really.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @03:46AM (#31133114) Homepage

    The robot arm is straightforward. It looks like it's built out of Dynamixel servos [trossenrobotics.com], which are good little programmable servomotors used for the better end of hobbyist robotics. (After 25 years, finally something better than one-way pulse code modulation for hobby servo control. These things use a 1mb/s bidirectional multidrop serial bus.) There are standard brackets for making robot arms and legs, and it looks like they just bolted the thing together from the stock parts kit.

    It's not clear how much the software knows about faces. That's the important part. Considerable work has been done on facial feature detection. There are commercial [seestorm.com] products [omron.com] available. Most of them ignore hairstyle, though, since they're aimed at face recognition.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hi Animats,

      Yes these servos are great...
      About the software this version is extremely rudimentary. However it locates the face (opencv), moves the camera to center the face in the frame...
      After it locates eyes, mouth, vertical axis horizontal axis...
      The drawing is based responses from Gabor filters at limited orientations, scales, etc..
      The system on show was the first test program I wrote for the arm. I finished the program during the exhibition. I needed to have it draw people....
      The feature localisation is

    • sorry I posted my previous reply anonymously Patrick
    • I thought I answered... These servos are great...and so cheap.. About the software. It is very rudimentary..I needed something to show at the exhibition. It looks around, locates a face (opencv's haar detector and/or skin colour) Moves the camera to center the face. Locates eyes, mouth. Vertical/horizontal axis The drawing is based on the responses from Gabor filters (http://www.cs.rug.nl/~imaging/)(best approximations of simple cells in early visual cortex (V1))) at various scales and limited orientations
    • I saw this robot at Kinetica. It was not very impressive. First of all, the hardware seemed poorly designed. It was incredibly shaky. When it drew a square around an image, the result were four wobbly lines that did not even connect.

      The software, of course, is the more interesting part - and a complete mystery. They had a screen showing a program doing edge detection or something similar on a face. They had a camera that was supposed to capture visitors and draw their portraits. Other than that, nothing was

  • an automata

    I don't think that is the grammatical number you think it is.

  • The technical challenge is pretty interesting. I like to see tasks completed by a physical analogue. The art is pretty sketchy, though. I've seen "pencil sketch" photo booths in the mall that make prettier artwork. Those have the advantage of going straight from the converted photograph to a printout of course. When they figure out how to let a machine do shaded sketches with a stick of charcoal, I think that this will be ready to jump from technical oddity to marketable novelty.

    • If you look at the Galleries on the site ..you will see the results of an algorithm performing a representation based on gray levels (shades).. "Prettiness" is not the aim of this system... In an art gallery prettiness doesn't really qualify what is exhibited... Best
  • The 1980's called. They want their pen plotter back.

    • I used a pen plotter before (far too precise), the images on the wall in the video are plotted... With the cheap arm we are using now there is a very interesting (necessary) lack of precision, different precision, feedback etc...... Patrick Tresset
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

        Back in the '80s there were a number of books about building stuff to plug into a BBC micro. One contained a plotter. Unlike the traditional design, which uses two motors to position the pen using cartesian coordinates, this used a double-hinged arm (and, I think, a third one for raising and lowering it; it's been almost two decades since I read the book). You could build it from a couple of stepper motors and some wood and a few wires and connect it up to the BBC. The book contained instructions for th

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        Ok, I guess that makes it more interesting. :)

        But the question, then, is as such: Is it cheaper to use a craigslist/ebay pen plotter and make it less precise in software, or to build an inherently imprecise robot arm that (ostensibly) produces the same sort of result?

        • Well I would have to use randomness in the software...I don't like using random number generators... It's more fun to play with an arm...and I get 7000 hits on youtube...;) And the next step is to use visual feedback to help motor_control...that wouldn't not work with the plotter.... At this stage the point of using an arm is not obvious..I only started developping the arm since november. Ho Yes..the point is not to do efficiently beautiful drawings...;) Frankly my motivation is to pass time in an interes
  • That way we can have self-fabricating robots [reprap.org] that also self-assemble themselves.
  • Seriously, no one's posted the Lego version of this already? Actually looks like the Lego bot does better depictions to the (un) trained eye ... http://robotics.benedettelli.com/portrayer.htm [benedettelli.com]
    • Hi Eugene You will notice that in our project there is no mention of portraits. Our system doesn't represent gray levels but salient structural lines... If you look at the galleries on the website you will notice that a previous system did something fairly interesting with gray levels back in 2005..it wasn't driving a robotic arm...but could have easily driven an arm, used as a plotter as in many robotic drawing systems... Also I guess that during the past 30 years there has been numerous systems attempting
  • First came stealing the assembly person's job in auto factories. Now they're stealing the jobs of artists. What's next, a robotic president?

    • The problem is that the robots are owned by the companies.

      Imagine everyone would own a robot, and those robots were then rented by companies. Then the robot would do the work, but the owner would get the money, without working himself.

    • Sure!!! you would have been happy to work on the assembly line.... I was an artist amongst thousands unable to live from my work.... I am more concerned about the use (present/near future) of robots in warfare, than of robots doing doodles... You are going to see more and more robots, you better get used to it. Best Patrick tresset
    • Hopefully they'll steal every job on the entire planet.

      I have better things to do with my life than working.
    • by aXis100 ( 690904 )

      Yeah, just like cameras and photocipiers stole the work of artists too.

      The robot is a tool, and may need some form of an artist to program or operate it. It's no worse than going from baking your own charcoal to using a modern pencil.

  • There is an exhibit [abb.com] in China Science and Technology Museum that also draws pictures. This is made of four ABB robots, so perhaps the cost is a bit more.. =)

    Sorry, I could not find any representative pictures what this exhibit draws.

  • by oogoliegoogolie ( 635356 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:54AM (#31134132)

    I misread the title as "Low-Cost Robotic Arm Stretches Faces." That really didn't sound like it would be very fun.

  • by ptresset ( 1744824 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @10:13AM (#31134204)
    please look on youtube!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOtQAhblRps [youtube.com]
    • by radtea ( 464814 )

      The comparison between how the robot sketches faces and the various other "how to sketch faces" instruction videos that YouTube helpfully provides is interesting. It looks like the robot is using some sort of priority algorithm for deciding the next stroke that has no concept of either the current stroke or the basic features of the face itself.

      So while a human sketch artist builds a face out of a library of pre-defined components that are effectively parameterized by the particular individual being sketch

  • I'd RTFA, but it's down...

    What would impress me would be if it did facial recognition to find the face, then tried drawing using the arm, compared the drawing to the image and adjusted as it went until it was finally graded 'acceptable' by a human, at which point it would lock down its algorithm.

  • by dopeghost ( 107650 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @01:33PM (#31135382) Homepage
    I went to Kinetica the other day and saw this and was definitely impressed. What i don't think is obvious from RTFA was that he was running Ubuntu! There were actually 3 individual arms setup, all communicating thru a wireless access point to a laptop he had in front of him. There were even mini postcards he was giving out with a rather dashing interpretation of Alan Turing on it :)
  • I guess the real news here is that there are low cost robotic arms.

  • Looking at the video, I would guess that it's doing some edge detection, stitching edge pixels into chains, and drawing each chain. However, the chains seem to be drawn in arbitrary order, and the robot arm spends most of its time "seeking", pen up, to the start of the next chain. It would have been nice to optimize the drawing order to get faster output. Hell, a human would have drawn the sketch a lot faster.

    Of course, obtaining the optimal sequence is equivalent to the traveling salesman problem, but t

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