We usually call a robot that can produce images a printer, but e-David is special. Created by a team at the University of Konstanz in Germany, E-David is a painter bot -- not the kind that spray-paints auto parts, but the more artistic variety.
E-David doesn't come up with images on its own, but instead takes a picture of what it wants to copy and takes it from there. It doesn't have to be programmed with directions that tell it how to paint, either; it uses something called "visual optimization" to make its own decisions. After each brush stroke, e-David takes a picture, and its software calculates whether the image needs to be lightened or darkened, and where.
"We equipped a standard robot with all necessary means for painting," the team said. "Five different brushes can be used, color can be selected from a repository with 24 colors, brushes can be cleaned, and colors can be distributed precisely on the canvas. The machine watches itself while painting and decides independently where to add new strokes. This way, paintings are created that are not completely defined by the programmer, but are the result of a visual optimization process."
While E-David isn't the first robot painter we've met, the images it produces, as seen in our gallery below, look strikingly organic and fluid. Without knowing their provenance, we'd be hard pressed to tell they'd been painted by a robot, as they're much more lifelike than the classical music composed by supercomputer Iamus. It's also fascinating to observe the delicate accuracy with which E-David paints, ponders, and returns for more paint, like a finely tuned robot ballet.
Maybe one day, we'll even get a ship that can sing.