This robotic arm draws almost as well as a human artist - because it sort of is one


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Image courtesy of Sougwen Chung

The robotic arm tracks the artist's movements and copies her lines.

Robots are already adept at scrubbing floors, making coffee, flipping pancakes, and doing other human-like tasks.

Most of those jobs entail machines taking simple orders from people. Now an artist wants to see what it's like to share a creative process with a robot.

Sougwen Chung, an artist-in-residence at MIT's Media Lab, has created a robotic arm that draws simultaneously with her by mimicking her gestures.


A simple web camera combined with computer vision allow the robot - D.O.U.G._1, or Drawing Operations Unit (Generation One) - to track Chung's movements and copy her lines. The result: A composition born from human-machine interaction.

To Chung, drawing with the robotic arm is an empathetic experience because it lets her engage in "the process of slowing down, paying attention, and communicating entirely through gesture," she said in an interview. 

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Image courtesy of Sougwen Chung

 But this collaboration between human and robot goes beyond making good art.


"It's interesting to see how his behavior could be quite silly and playful if there was an error. Even the sudden movement could inspire another way for him to draw. The more imperfect the line work is, the more it seems like it's expressing his style of drawing," Chung said in a video 

The ultimate aim is to find out whether over time D.O.U.G. can reveal what it remembers, learn to improvise, and maybe create unique art on its own. 

D.O.U.G. is Chung's only non-human collaborator in art - for now.


Check out Chung and her art companion online in action on July 29th at 6 PM ET, as part of a project commissioned by multimedia publishing platform NewHive.

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