The Daily Telegraph
Robotic AI arm has impressionist painting down to a fine art
POSSESSING little artistic ability may no longer be a barrier to creating great art, after US scientists designed a robot that can paint people’s ideas.
Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania has developed an artificially intelligent robotic arm that will paint on command.
The system is similar to the way in which CHATGPT, an AI chatbot, generates text in a chosen style, meaning users can direct the robot to paint a specific image, copy a photograph or work in the style of another artist.
The robot is named Frida (Framework and Robotics Initiative for Developing Arts) after Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist.
“Frida is a robotic painting system, but Frida is not an artist,” said Peter Schaldenbrand, a doctoral student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, who helped develop the robot.
“It is not generating the ideas to communicate. It is a system that an artist could collaborate with. The artist can specify high-level goals for Frida and then it can execute them.”
He added: “There’s this painting of a frog ballerina that I think turned out really nicely. It is really silly and fun, and I think the surprise of what it generated based on my input was really fun to see.”
Frida has been trained using massive datasets that pair text and images from the internet, before AI systems crunch the data to generate a new image which it can then paint.
Once Frida has been given a concept to work with, the robot uses machine learning to create a simulation of the final painting, and then plans how to achieve it using brush strokes.
It also uses machine learning to evaluate its progress as it works. Every so often, the robot uses an overhead camera to capture an image of the painting, and refines its plan if needed.
The team describe the final paintings as “impressionistic” and “whimsical” and lacking the precision expected of robots, which may surprise people.
Researchers say they are struggling to improve Frida’s artistic ability and admit that there is room for improvement between what it composes in simulation compared with the end result on canvas.
However, the team do not think artists are in danger of being replaced by artificially intelligent robots.
“People wonder if Frida is going to take artists’ jobs, but the main goal is quite the opposite. We want to really promote human creativity through Frida,” said Dr Jean Oh, a research professor at the Robotics Institute.
“For instance, I personally wanted to be an artist. Now, I can actually collaborate with Frida to express my ideas in painting.”
Dr James Mccann, assistant professor at the Robotics Institute, added: “Frida is a project exploring the intersection of human and robotic creativity.”