To turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece: ETU "LETI" researchers created a unique painting robot

To turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece: ETU

A painting robot created by a team of young researchers from St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University "LETI" is capable of creating realistic paintings.

24.06.2019 1996

“You are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?" - questions of Will Smith’s character from the science fiction film I, Robot (2004) today have ceased to be rhetorical. Artificial intelligence is capable of creative activity in various fields - researchers from the St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University "LETI" are ready to prove it. They created a unique painting robot able to paint realistic paintings on canvas.

The team of researchers faced the task of inventing the machine capable of creating artworks with high-quality color rendition, which even the most sophisticated public cannot distinguish from the works of human artists. The robot has a unique design. A brush and a special paint mixing system can improve the rendition of color and tone. High-precision piston pumps supply the paint, and the developed painterly rendering algorithm for splitting an image into brushstrokes allows converting it into machine code. The canvas size is up to 50 × 70 cm, which is a popular commercial painting size.

“The most interesting part of our project is the unique design of an automatic brush based on a block of high-precision paint pumps. The mixing block is installed on the coordinate machine. Unlike known painting robots, who mix basic paints on an artistic palette or directly on the canvas, our robot mixes paints using a special mixer created using 3D printing technology and connected to a hollow brush. The second essential element of the project's scientific novelty is a special algorithm for the synthesis of a vector brushstroke map based on the original raster image. In the end, this allows achieving high quality and density of rendering, as well as significantly increase the productivity of the robot," Denis Butusov, scientific leader of the development team, Director of the Youth Research Institute of ETU “LETI,” explained.

Researchers conducted tests to assess the accuracy of tone rendition of their painting robot. The experiments proved the ability of the painting machine to render a full range of gray tones from black to white with root mean square error 5,7% in RGB color space. The machine painted realistic grayscale test images based on source photos. Histogram analysis proved the quality of tone rendition. The painted images have apparent “visual aesthetics” and resemble artistic paintings.

"We proved that our approach for on-the-flow paint mixing is fruitful and advanced. Today, our machine successfully paints grayscale images with apparent aesthetics automatically, without any human assistance. Next, we will improve our robot to implement color painting. We also plan to design a new version of the machine suitable for commercial purposes."

Artur Karimov, Developer, Associate Professor of the Department of Computer Aided Design at ETU “LETI”

A team of ETU "LETI" researchers has shown that artificial intelligence can be trained in creativity. It is possible that in the near future, an improved painting robot will compete with living creators, and its works will participate in exhibitions and will be loved by many art lovers.

According to researchers, robotic painting can later become one of the driving forces in the art and entertainment industry used by artists, printers, shops, museums, and galleries to create high-quality copies of artworks. Painting robot will allow realizing precise robotic technologies of restoration and conformal deposition of protective coatings.

It is planned that the unique development of ETU "LETI" researchers will become the starting point for achieving the ultimate goal - the creation of a modern restoration research center Intellectual Restoration Laboratory in St. Petersburg.

Its main task will be to carry out work on the restoration, documentation, non-destructive control and monitoring of the state of historical and cultural monuments using the latest laser, optical-electronic and additive technologies developed at ETU "LETI." Among them are the following: innovative technology of laser 3D-scanning, which allows you to create virtual copies of cultural monuments; laser and plasma technologies for removing pollution and inactivating microorganisms - biodestructors of historical and architectural monuments; computer methods for the study of digital optical images of paintings with the purpose of their attribution; intelligent high-security technologies for labeling, storing and transporting objects with integrated sensor control systems (the Internet of “artistic things”).

The creation of the Intellectual Restoration Laboratory will increase the quality of the restoration works carried out in St. Petersburg, which will help to solve actual issues of preserving monuments exhibited outdoors and exposed to destructive environmental factors. The project will help St. Petersburg to take a lead among all regions of Russia in the use of highly intelligent engineering and artistic restoration technologies for the preservation of cultural heritage.