DOUG: the First Robot Able to Draw

Margherita Olivo
December 19th 2015

We already talked about robot interactions with human, and we find this topic particularly actual and interesting since the way we handle this collaboration will be crucial for our future. Robots can already read, talk and reason. Yet, they do not seem to have found limits to their artistic skills either. Meet DOUG_1, the drawing robot.

This first generation of robots able to draw was born from the collaboration of interdisciplinary artist Sougwen Chung and NEW INC developer Yotam Mann. DOUG_1 stands for Drawing Operations Unit Generation 1 and it is composed by a robotic arm capable of sketching by imitation. Equipped with a simple webcam to a computer program, the robot can follow the movement of the person who is drawing and copy the figures he creates. According to Sougwen Chung, drawing with the robot is an unique experience because it allows the machine to "communicate entirely through gesture”.

As the New York-based artist says: “It’s a more empathetic experience because I’m engaging in the process of slowing down, paying attention, and communicating entirely through gesture". DOUG_1 was first developed for the NEW INC Showcase at Red Bull Studios last July, and the project recently won an Excellence Award from the Japan Media Arts Festival, which aims to encourage the creation of Media Arts among a new generation of artists.

According to her, every movement, even abrupt, can inspire and introduce a robot to another drawing technique. The more imperfect the line is, the better the robot seems to express his own “personal” style. The ultimate goal for Chung is to see if DOUG_1 will eventually show what it learned and if it would be capable to improvise or even to create a work of its own. Robots were only thought of as “cold” and threatening machines, but now they seem to be developing a sort of personality.

Source: The Creator's Project. Image: New Inc

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