Patrick Tresset draws portraits. He doesn’t move the pen with his own hand, or even look at the person with his own eyes. Tresset, a former painter, makes his portraits vicariously through a robot.

I’ve seen many many robots that draw. Often, the result is impressive for sure, but lacking in the kind of organic sensibility that comes from a human hand. Tressett’s portrait robot, however, impressed me with its results. They felt very similar to what you would have seen from an artist siting at the table.

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 Trasset has spent 10 years experimenting with different ways to adjust the code and the physical mechanisms to give the results a very organic feel. The results as seen in the video are quite nice. I had incorrectly assumed that this was, like all other drawbots, merely transposing an image to paper after some filtering. I just assumed that the act of repeatedly looking at the person was merely for show, to add some perceived personality. I was wrong! Trasset share with me the research paper in which he describes the incredible work that went into creating a robot that actually takes actions to mimic a person in order to recreate an image that it has seen. If you’re feeling especially curious, you can read that research paper in pdf here.

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This certainly won’t be replacing a human artist any time soon. It does, however, seem to inhabit a space somewhere in between a human artist and a simple pen plotter. I know that I found the images to be quite captivating and would happily place one on my wall.