We’ve gotten used to constant advances in robotics. Robots have beaten humans at chess and Jeopardy. Robots do lots of driving and flying for us. Robots have taken manufacturing jobs formerly held by humans. Could the next frontier be robot art?
Not yet — but now a robot has been programmed to draw human portraits. It’s an industrial robot that has been programmed. The process uses a camera, software that seeks out contrasts while not focusing on every tiny feature in a human face, and the precise movements of a robot arm.
The result is a rendering of a human face that is competent and lifelike — but I wouldn’t call it art. What makes a great portrait is not simply the professional technique used to create the likeness, but the creative spark that highlights the feature that really defines the subject. Perhaps it is the spark in the eyes, or the set of the mouth, or the tilt of the head, but the skilled artist will always find and accentuate the special quality that defines the individual. An artist who draws everyone in precisely the same way isn’t really a portrait artist in my book.
So, Russell’s chosen field is safe, at least for now. What’s next — robot lawyers?