The U.S. Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Laboratory, has developed a system that allows small robots to swarm together to create a work of art based on an artist’s ideas, without the artist having to worry about specific instructions for each individual robot. The research is about developing human-robot swarm communication capabilities.
In the paper "Interactive Multi-Robot Painting Through Colored Motion Trails" scientists present the potential of robotic swarms in art. To this end, the researchers have developed robots that can leave traces of paint on a canvas. 20 pieces of it drive over the canvas. Initially, however, they leave the color traces only virtually; they are projected onto the screen behind the robots via a projector. They will be monitored by a motion detection system to determine their position on the screen. Later, the mini-robots will be modified to leave a real paint mark.
The robots will serve the artist as a kind of "active paintbrush". Instead of feeding the robots with concrete individual instructions, the artist merely determines in which areas of the canvas which colors are to be applied. The swarm of robots then implements this in real time. The desired color nuances are created by mixing the different colors applied by the individual mini-robots.
"The interface between robotics and art has become an active field of research, where artists and researchers combine creativity and systematic thinking to push the boundaries of different art forms", says Dr. MarIa Santos of the Georgia Institute of Technology. "The artistic possibilities of multi-robot systems, however, still need to be investigated in detail", she adds, referring to the images, which are still somewhat abstract and reminiscent of children’s drawings. Because the images are still quite rough.
Robot swarm can paint pictures. (Source: Georgia Institute of Technology)
Nevertheless, the researchers are pleased with the results so far: they show that it is possible for an artist to have a robot swarm paint a picture with simple interactions. Future versions of the technique could then produce more refined images, the researchers think. The technology to control robot swarms so easily could have great potential in other areas as well.