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How Robots Saved an Artist's Sanity

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the mend-all-humans dept.

Robotics 26

New submitter lebijoutier writes "According to Slate, '[Patrick] Tresset, for one, discovered a novel way to stay mentally healthy with the help of drugs and still pursue what was once his life's work: He created robots that can draw portraits. Far from a mere novelty, his research is telling us more about both the creative process in humans and how we relate emotionally to machines. ... Most of us still don't have robots in the home, but for decades now, we've been waiting for machines to do our bidding. Tresset believes that it might be a good idea to imbue all personal robots with some sort of artistic skill to encourage an emotional bond — it might allow for more trust, perhaps, though you can also see how overly identifying with a machine might create some existential questions.' The article also has a fascinating video of five of his robots sketching a single human."

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Moravec's Paradox (2)

broginator (1955750) | about 2 years ago | (#42002513)

Reminds me of Moravec's Paradox [wikipedia.org]

Puzzled Curator (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42002573)

"Who's this 'Skynet' artist who signs all these works we keep getting?"

Re:Puzzled Curator (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42003581)

A cylon.

Better than the Nigerian Prince portrait (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42002621)

My favorite work from this is called "Hacked by Chinese", followed by "BSOD" in blue pen.

Re:Better than the Nigerian Prince portrait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42013049)

Your penis can grow this large in 6 weeks..

I can see it now: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42002639)

Slashdotter: "I only purchase works done in Linux."

Re:I can see it now: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42002705)

Nonsense, this is Slashdot you're mocking.

"Art wants to be free!"

For most people ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42002665)

the only kind of artist they know is the piss artist.

doesn't compute (4, Insightful)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | about 2 years ago | (#42002817)

Tresset believes that it might be a good idea to imbue all personal robots with some sort of artistic skill to encourage an emotional bond

That seems like putting the cart before the horse. How about creating a robot with voice capabilities that are similar to natural speech? Or something that doesn't look and act like the killer cowboy from "Westworld"?

Any machine that can simulate possessing an emotional core creates sympathy/empathy. However, a Dreadnought [google.com] a la Iron Man baking me a cake or doing water color is still a freaking Dreadnought.

Re:doesn't compute (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42003823)

Tresset believes that it might be a good idea to imbue all personal robots with some sort of artistic skill to encourage an emotional bond

That seems like putting the cart before the horse. How about creating a robot with voice capabilities that are similar to natural speech? Or something that doesn't look and act like the killer cowboy from "Westworld"?

But that's just the kind of robot I want answering the door when Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and bill collectors knock.

Re:doesn't compute (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 2 years ago | (#42008867)

Not just natural speech sound, but natural speech response. There's research that claims that speaking to and getting a live-sounding answer from a machine humanizes them even more than having a face, to the point where people will develop an attachment to the machine in question.

It's hard to quantify, as all such things are in humans, but it appears that humans respond to three things best: facial expression, voice, and body language. The importance of these things is not what many people might think. When trying to cross the so-called "uncanny valley", it appears that body language is the first thing we will accept as natural from a machine, followed by voice. This is best exemplified by Walt Disney cartoons, and the legendary test of an animator: make a sack of flour appear to be sad, happy, excited, scared, etc. solely with animation. It can be done, and we buy it. Add a human-sounding voice, and you have a viable character that people, including children, can relate to very easily. Disney has built an empire around the phenomenon.

A face and facial expressions, on the other hand trail a very very distant third. So far do they trail that they're probably responsible for the origin of the phrase "uncanny valley". The closer to human-shaped a robot's face gets, the less likely a human is to accept the robot as a thinking entity, because the subtlest wrongness is actually worse than more blatant differences.

In short, if you build a robotic vacuum cleaner, program it to strut (and yes, you can pull this off using nothing but wheels on a squat little rounded box) and make it listen and talk. Be sure that talking to it constitutes programming it, so that it remembers what it hears and learns details of the family's habits, but especially so that its vacuuming schedule can be reliably set just by talking to it. It does not have to remotely resemble anything human, or have anything remotely resembling a human face. Quite the opposite. It shouldn't. But if it does these three things, people will adore the thing. If you thought people have unhealthy relationships with their iPhones, just wait until somebody builds a vacuum cleaner with a robotic personality.

Seriously, if you successfully write such code and sell such a product, be prepared to be in the repair business. A replacement will not be acceptable. We're talking family-pet level of affection here. You will get tearful letters from Little Jonnie that Herbie is broken and needs his wheel motor replaced and can you pleeaaase do it quickly.

Give a man something to do... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#42002857)

...and it will keep his interest and divert attention away from other things, even depressing thoughts.

Of course, it could be taken too far...

Another visitor...
Stay a while.
Stay forever!

What?! Don't do that! (1)

theRunicBard (2662581) | about 2 years ago | (#42002875)

An emotional bond is just what Skynet wants! That's why it has been making terminator robots in the form of cute 22 year old girls!

Sure about the robots? (2)

Beerdood (1451859) | about 2 years ago | (#42003021)

discovered a novel way to stay mentally healthy with the help of drugs

Re:Sure about the robots? (2)

Garridan (597129) | about 2 years ago | (#42005777)

With drugs, he can't work. If he can't work, he can't afford the sanity-making pills. So insane he goes. The robots keep him away from that precipice.

Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42003107)

Just as long as we don't end up with the Mantis from the Galactic Center series...

I know an artist with no arms (2)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#42003209)

Michael Davenport lost both his hands and most of his lower arms, as well as some toes and part of one foot, when he was accidentally electrocuted as a thirteen year old. At some point he was inspired to pick up a permanent marker in his mouth and sketch that way; he draws Georgia Bulldogs (with permission from the university these days - who would deny a license to a dude with no arms?) and sells them to alumni, thus making a pretty decent living. I have one of his marker sketches in my kitchen. On dry days, you can find him in downtown Athens, marker in mouth, working on a canvas. He also does commissions and wall murals for alumni for their "Georgia rooms" - charging upwards of a thousand dollars for a large wall mural. (He can also do stuff besides red and black bulldogs - I once saw him do a commission for the Georgia Theater in full color.)

As for TFA, seems like the guy has no creative urges when he's on meds. I'm glad he found a different way to express himself.

The last segment of TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42003281)

This is a mortal blow to the idea that evolution and "science" have nothing to say about Art (similar things are said about Love etc.), though, to be sure, no one who knows shit about evolution has ever claimed that it cannot explain Art, just the dunderheads trying to misuse the "more things in heaven and earth, dear horatio" type phrase.

I do find it intensely comforting to see this. Sounds more and more like a digital existence would be desirable, after all. Digitize me, Scotty! Immortalize me in those electron/photon circuits.

Most of us still don't have robots in the home (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42003283)

most of us do.

Lets see:
I have a machine that washes dishes.
One to was cloths.
One to Dry Clothes.
I have on that tells me when someone one want to communicate
I have on the organizes my messages,
I have one the automatically turns on what I want to see
Most people have a robot that record the shows they want to see.

It's just a case they some people think robots are some far off thing, so when they show up in normal activity they get dismissed.

Re:Most of us still don't have robots in the home (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about 2 years ago | (#42004917)

I even have robots that can draw portraits, too, when my digital camera and printer work in concert.

Re:Most of us still don't have robots in the home (2)

_anomaly_ (127254) | about 2 years ago | (#42005077)

Um, you have a very loose definition of robots. Electronics programmed to do certain things under certain predefined conditions, without any need to adapt or handle conditions that are not predefined, are rarely considered robots.

Cart before the horse. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42003301)

" Tresset believes that it might be a good idea to imbue all personal robots with some sort of artistic skill to encourage an emotional bond"

If he finds a way, I'm all for it. But his current robot is a webcam hooked to a photoshop filter and piped to a mechanical arm - technically very impressive, but not actually artistic in any useful sense of the word.

Re:Cart before the horse. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42003673)

Well that Van Gogh guy was just a bio-mechanical version of the same system you described (he saw with eyes, processed with a brain, and articulated the result of that processing with an arm).

At this point I think we're just arguing over the nature of the "filters" applied in that middle step and which ones get to be called "art".

definition of a robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42003313)

I would argue that many (if not most) people have at least one robot in their home. In what way does a washing machine fail to meet the definition of robot... "A robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry"

People with industrial strength robots enter here (1)

burni2 (1643061) | about 2 years ago | (#42004015)

Anyone who has one or more please responds with data ;) to undermine that "not everybody has one"

1.) robot mass 320kg
2.) lifting capacitiy 15kg
3.) manufacturer: Manutec
4.) type: r15
5.) axis: 6 axis - robotic arm type
6.) built: around 1987

Dali did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42012017)

He signed blank canvases.

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Dali-Fraud-Other-Deceptions/dp/0942637631

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