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.
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.
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.