Robo-Artists

Engineers have designed robots that can paint, but are these machines making art?

A robot called CloudPainter dips one of the brushes on the end of its mechanical arm into a cup of paint. It spins around and adds a final dab of color onto a canvas. It has just completed an original painting. But is this robot-generated portrait a work of art? Or is painting a form of expression that only a human can truly achieve?

Engineers are designing robots sophisticated enough to paint impressive-looking works. In fact, it’s often hard to tell that a person didn’t paint them. Many of the bots recently showed off what they could do at the third annual online RobotArt competition—which CloudPainter won. Invented by American artist and software engineer Pindar Van Arman, CloudPainter functions using artificial intelligence (a computer system able to perform tasks normally associated with human intelligence, like making decisions). Van Arman programs the robot to paint without outside input, making choices as it works to improve its paintings over time—just like a human artist.

Van Arman says he’s trying to replicate human creativity with his robot. While he admits CloudPainter isn’t quite there yet, he does believe it has developed its own unique artistic style. CloudPainter also produces images that are new and unexpected.

Critics argue that robots like CloudPainter just appear to be creative. The machines only do what they’ve been programmed to do. The critics say robots lack human experiences, imagination, and emotions, which are necessary to give art meaning and value.

Many artists think robots can serve as a useful tool—like a paintbrush—to help them make art. But that also raises the question of whether a robot or its designer should get credit for the works it creates.

What do you think?

Can a painting made by a machine ever equal one created by a person?

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