Contrary to popular misconception, robotic art and other AI applications in fine arts can help artists become creatively and commercially successful.
One cannot help but feel amazed—and, to an extent, even intimidated—by David, Michelangelo’s immortal creation. The original, located in Florence, Italy, stands out for several reasons—its massive frame that is larger-than-life yet oddly relatable and moving, the artistic choice of depicting David as a young adult rather than the more-conformist Goliath-slaying child, and the knowledge of its numerous replicas scattered around the world. Usually, there are two parts to the creation of such masterpieces. The first involves taming the maelstrom of inspirations and influences to come up with an original concept mentally. The second part is all about bringing that concept to life using physical tools and skills. A masterpiece of such biblical proportions requires the two parts to come together seamlessly, a process that may take years, if not decades, to be perfected. So, how do robots find their way into such a free-spirited space? As we will see, robotic art enables the virtuoso creators of today and tomorrow to piece the two parts—art and craft—together with inhuman efficiency.
It is easy to feel confused when it comes to the terms art and craft, and use one of them in a conversation while you're actually talking about the other. While some elements of art and craft blend into each other, the differences are rather easy to discern—art is the form of work that deals with abstract factors such as innate feelings and imaginative abilities, while the craft is more about tangible results. So, naturally, the former is open-ended and unstructured as one can imagine things without factoring in all the consequences and results of specific actions. The latter adds reality to the equation, with aspects such as boundaries, skills, and expertise to give definite shape to raw art.
In simple words, art and craft are both involved in the creative process of artists. When done right, art appeals to an audience on an emotional level, while craft wows them with flair and technical perfection. Unlike art, persistent training and experience can enable someone to understand and, eventually, master any craft. For instance, an artist conjures up a creation in their head, while skilled craftsmen possess the technical nous and direction that allows them to follow a blueprint and bring the creation to life. Creators, such as those engaged in the fine arts, need to use both elements to bring their own imagination to life.
Technology has always been used to reshape the art industry in modern times. Today, technologies such as AI, robotics and computer vision have developed to the point where they can decisively influence and enhance fine art. The emergence of robotic art frees up creators to carry out the art aspect of creation without worries, while the machines streamline the craft aspect that will ultimately help them commercialize their creation and make a living out of it.
Moments are abstract entities that cannot be recreated. Certain events, such as a couple's reaction to their newborn baby's first cries, the look of genuine horror on a person's face when they're confronted with the reality of a terminal disease they have, and a few others are too real to replicate. The same can be said for moments of artistic inspiration. The creation of art largely involves hitting the right emotional chords at the perfect moment. Therefore, recreating a brilliant piece of fine art, like for like, is impossible even for the greatest of artists.
Specialized robotic art involves the use of deep learning algorithms and pattern recognition tools to find the truly distinguishing elements in a fine art piece. Pattern recognition allows AI and robots to mathematically recapture the beats that led to the creation of the piece. While such systems lack the impulsive emotions and imagination of an artist, they make up for that deficit by using the precision and number crunching of a robot.
There are several AI software and robotic tools that are configured to reproduce lost fine art masterpieces of yore. In 2018, the AI researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed an AI-based application that does just that. When it had just been developed, the tool could recreate historical paintings with four times as much accuracy as is achieved by the then existing state-of-the-art reproduction technology available to the researchers.
Like any commercial producer, artists need to make original copies of their fine art in order to sell them to as many buyers as possible. Robotic art enables them to do so with accuracy and consistency.
Creators may choose to note down their fine art ideas in a computer or a hand-created document. Robotic art enables AI and robots to fill the probable gaps in the original design using predictive analysis and other cognitive tools before they can create a piece of fine art in the flesh. There have been several tools and systems that take the idea that forms the basis of artwork from the digital realm and bring it onto a canvas or with real-world materials. An example of this transition is the AI NORN project created by the developers at Art-Supreme. The project involves a robotic arm that scans the coordinates of a digital painting before using real paints and brushes to draw an appropriately scaled version of it on a canvas.
Natural Language Generation tools such as GPT-3 can create large pieces of text from basic ideas and summaries. Similarly, robotic art tools perform the visual equivalent of that by enabling artists to create incomplete ideas—such as an incomplete musical composition—, before intelligent automation tools can create fine art from those ideas.
As any artistic person would tell you, a creative block is a real problem faced by even the most accomplished of creators. When genuine inspiration is hard to come by, little things, such as a simple brush stroke or a germ-level idea, can act as a spark that goes on to fuel the creativity of an artist. Robotic art is fully capable of providing such a trigger to fine art creators of today. To develop a robotic art system that can achieve this, developers feed several thousand training images to AI algorithms. The training images consist of original fine art pieces and similar references. Essentially, the robotic systems are rigorously configured so that they can dial up factors such as complexity, ambiguity and novelty in every generated fine art piece created by them. Robotic art models used for creating fine art triggers generally consist of two neural network algorithms—one to generate painting copies and another to assess the difference between the art piece samples fed to it and the generated outputs. To maintain originality, the robotic trigger creator will stop generating output once one of these factors becomes zero—indicating that no difference can be found between the original works and the generated results. Similarly, modern generative design applications can generate artwork based on the input constraints provided to them.
Ultimately, as we can see from the listed applications, robotic art tools and AI help artists to find inspiration and realize their creativity with triggers, as well as replicate original art to increase the earnings of fine artists.
Intelligent automation has its share of positives that can improve fine arts in multiple ways. At the same time, it may expose fine art creators—and others involved in the field—to new adversities.
The replication and reproductive abilities of robotic art tools make it easy for individuals to create pirated copies of your artwork and sell it without your knowledge to buyers. As one can imagine, losses incurred due to piracy are difficult to track and can have a debilitative impact on the livelihood of fine art creators.
The narrative of technology putting people out of a job may be overwrought in certain fields (as, ultimately, technology is used to assist workers and not replace them entirely), but it can be detrimental for the employment of actual craftsmen as it will actually make them surplus to requirements. Additionally, fine art creators may find it more economically appealing to use technology instead of expensive skilled craftsmen to give shape to their art.
Creating an artistic behemoth like Michelangelo’s David in today’s day and age with digital assistance may be a tall task but not entirely out of reach for the latest fine art automation tools. Imagining the creation process for that has the power to overwhelm you with a sheer sense of awe. Robotic art may have certain issues to address, but it can add new dimensions to fine arts in a way few other technologies can.
Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.