• Germany edition
 
Painting robot sparks 'what is art?' debate
Photo: DPA

Painting robot sparks 'what is art?' debate

Published: 23 Oct 2013 15:38 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Oct 2013 15:38 GMT+02:00

David’s creators at the University of Constance in southern Germany upgraded a robot whose original function was to weld car parts and then fitted him with a camera and computer, as well as a painting palette and some brushes.

They then programmed him to replicate images by taking account of shape and shade, as well as relative position on the canvas.

Oliver Deussen, IT professor at the university, spent three years teaching David the robot, whose name stands for 'Drawing Apparatus for Vivid Interactive Display,' to paint.

"We were interested in describing human painting styles mathematically," Deussen told news agency DPA.

Click here to see some of David's paintings

The camera's function is to constantly compare the developing painting to the original image, thus allowing adjustments to be made. When the programme can no longer identify improvements, David stops working.

The result is a painting, which while bearing an undisputed likeness to the original motif, contains human-like imperfections.

David even has the sophistication to replicate obscure touches like reflections in water. "In principle, e-David can paint in an impressionist style," Deussen told DPA.

But the paintings are raising questions about the definition of art and the role of the artist. Some speculate that in the future, smaller versions of David could enter the market, allowing people to direct their artistic robot companions to create unique, on-the-spot paintings of their surroundings.

"Pictures created by robots are conceptually fascinating and go way beyond an ordinary gimmick," said Robert van der Valentyn from the Van Ham auction house in Cologne.

But he conceded that the pictures represent "at best the efforts of the programmers, who as a rule, aren't artists but rather rely on existing art forms."

Van der Valentyn argued that robot-made paintings cannot emulate the intuition and creativity which goes into a painting by a human. "From that perspective, computer-generated paintings do not pose a threat to the art market," he said, pointing out that "Chinese factories already supply that market at incredibly low prices."

Holger Bunk of the Academy of Art in Stuttgart said that the artist's role in society has stood the test of time. "I have never heard of a development which calls into question what I as an artist or an art teacher do," he said, adding that he was sceptical about whether a robot could be taught to develop a sense of its own position in time and space.

While some may not be ready to describe David as the next van Gogh, his artistic apprenticeship is set to continue. His creators hope that he will soon be able to learn to use different techniques to convey motifs and to differentiate between people and objects.

Despite the scope of his ambition, Professor Deussen describes his creation not as an artist but as a "kind of modern paintbrush."

But as David's technique improves, the lines between human creativity and artificial intelligence may well become more blurred.

Click here to see some of David's paintings

READ MORE: New Berlin museum for 20th century art

DPA/kkf

Follow us on Twitter @thelocalgermany

Like The Local Germany on Facebook

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Size does matter in this case, rules judge
Photo:Shutterstock

Size does matter in this case, rules judge

A judge has ordered a deliveryman's manhood to be measured after he claimed in court that it was too small for him to be guilty of exhibitionism. READ  

Crimea annexation unnerves Germans: Poll
Ukrainian soldiers near Luhansk, Ukraine. Photo: DPA

Crimea annexation unnerves Germans: Poll

Almost two thirds of Germans fear Russia plans further land grabs in Ukraine, according to an opinion poll released on the eve of Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the conflict-torn country. READ  

Ice bucket challenge gets dumped on Germany
Actress Natascha Ochsenknecht gets doused. Photo: DPA

Ice bucket challenge gets dumped on Germany

German football players, German tennis players, German TV characters and Germany's latest Topmodel winner are on it, but is it actually making a difference? READ  

Defence chief shot down over shooting quip
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen tries on military body armour. Photo: DPA

Defence chief shot down over shooting quip

Amid heated debates over arms for Iraq, the Ukraine crisis, and Germany's foreign military involvement despite its WWII legacy, defence chief Ursula von der Leyen stirred a debate of her own on Friday after a dud World Cup gag. READ  

Expat Dispatches
He'll take my name: yes he's really sure!
He says "I will!" Photo: DPA

He'll take my name: yes he's really sure!

A quick and uncomplicated conversation between a recently engaged couple concluded that the husband-to-be would take on a his fiancee's surname. However, everyone's reaction surprised no one more than Australian expat Liv Hambrett. READ  

Newborn white lion cubs are pride of the circus
Photo:DPA

Newborn white lion cubs are pride of the circus

Four white lions born into the Krone Circus during its stop in Magdeburg yesterday find themselves in a Germany reliving a decades-old fight over exotic animals displayed for profit. READ  

Heart centre accused of fiddling transplant list
A donor heart gets delivered to the DHZB. Photo: DPA

Heart centre accused of fiddling transplant list

UPDATE: The German Heart Institute of Berlin (DHZB) is under investigation for attempted manslaughter after evidence showed a doctor manipulated patient data to get them a new heart faster. READ  

Germany sues Swiss bank over missing marks
Julius Bär bank. Photo:DPA

Germany sues Swiss bank over missing marks

Berlin is suing one of Switzerland's largest banks in its bid to recuperate hundreds of million euros that went missing during the reunification of East and West Germany, the bank said Thursday. READ  

Trial of cannibalism fetish cop to begin
The scene of the crime. Photo: DPA

Trial of cannibalism fetish cop to begin

The trial of a German police officer accused of murdering a willing victim he met on a website for cannibalism fetishists starts on Friday in the eastern city of Dresden. READ  

False teeth of the dead: finders keepers?
Coffins awaiting incineration in a crematorium. Photo: DPA

False teeth of the dead: finders keepers?

An Erfurt court has decided not to force a 56-year old man to pay damages for more than 31 kilos of gold teeth taken from the crematorium in Hamburg where he worked between 2003 and 2011. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Society
A German journalist shares the story of his US arrest in Ferguson
Photo: DPA
National
Berlin's senate puts the brakes on Über
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: DPA
Culture
How I deal with my German Hausmeister
Photo: Ingrid Eulenfan/flickr
Gallery
Nine German treats you'll want to eat right now (and one you won't)
Photo: DPA
Society
Who's getting German citizenship?
Photo: DPA
Culture
How World War I changed Germany forever
Photo: APA/DPA
Gallery
The 12 best words in Austrian German
Photo: DPA
Society
'Look at those German shanty towns!'
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should.
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,364
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd