Robot artist 'draws' crowds at world's top tech fair

Mar 07, 2012
A robot draws a portrait of a visitor at the world's biggest high-tech fair, the CeBIT, in Hanover. A robot caricaturist that can draw an accurate likeness of its subject in just three minutes was wowing the crowds on Wednesday at the world's biggest IT fair, but not every customer was satisfied.

A robot caricaturist that can draw an accurate likeness of its subject in just three minutes was wowing the crowds on Wednesday at the world's biggest IT fair, but not every customer was satisfied.

The robot, designed by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, takes a black-and-white picture of the subject, its computer brain then calculates the contrasts and contours of the face and it sketches what it "sees".

But, in contrast to a human artist, this robot is scrupulously honest, which can leave some punters feeling they have been poorly treated.

"Some people go away disappointed," admitted Karin Stein, a researcher on the project.

"For example, if you have very small lips, the computer registers very small lips. There is hardly any contrast or contour, so what you end up with is a short, straight line. People aren't happy," she added.

"The robot could do the portrait in three minutes flat, but we wanted to recreate the experience in Montmartre," she explained, with most portraits taking around 10 minutes.

"In fact, the younger you are, the quicker it is, because it takes more time for the computer to recognise and draw wrinkles."

Like most gadgets at this year's , the world's biggest high-tech fair in the northern German city of Hanover, what may appear frivolous has a higher purpose.

In fact, the robot is just showing off its skills. Its day job is to work on measuring how light reflects off various surfaces.

This is crucial for research into reflective clothing for road workers or street signs, for example, when it is preferable to have as much light beamed back as strongly as possible, or camouflage when the opposite is needed.

But the street artists of the world can rest easy for the moment, as they still have the advantage of price.

Whereas a caricature might set you back $20 or so, this is worth at least 40,000 euros ($52,000).

"And that's just the hardware," Stein said, smiling.

Explore further: Q&A: Drones might help explain how tornadoes form

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A robot sketches portraits

Feb 17, 2012

Artists are often colorful personalities. This one, though, comes across as cool, precise and metallic – and is anything but extravagant. No wonder – after all, it's an industrial robot, one that ...

Robot footballers wow crowd in Germany

Mar 02, 2010

Forget Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi. With less than 100 days to the World Cup, it was four pint-sized robots that wowed crowds in Germany Tuesday with their footballing skills.

CeBIT: Gadgets galore at world's top tech fair

Mar 02, 2011

A Shakespeare-reciting robot, the world's most merciless alarm clock and "intelligent" cocktail shakers were among the gadgets wowing visitors at the CeBIT high-tech fair on Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Q&A: Drones might help explain how tornadoes form

Dec 18, 2014

Researchers say they have collected promising weather data by flying instrument-laden drones into big Western and Midwestern storms. Now, they want to expand the project in hopes of learning more about how ...

First steps for Hector the robot stick insect

Dec 16, 2014

A research team at Bielefeld University has succeeded in teaching the only robot of its kind in the world how to walk. Its first steps have been recorded in a video. The robot is called Hector, and its construction ...

Getting bot responders into shape

Dec 16, 2014

Sandia National Laboratories is tackling one of the biggest barriers to the use of robots in emergency response: energy efficiency.

Robot 'shadow hand'

Dec 12, 2014

Picking up an apple is one of those jobs requiring the delicate touch of the human hand – or its robotic counterpart.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

visual
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
Article is pointless without sample images.
Kinedryl
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
Here you can get one http://images.ala...9157.jpg He pictures woman as a man, so you shouldn't expect very much from it. It's essentially a camera powered vectorization engine connected to plotter. Such a "robot" could be made from every laptop connected to plotter.
computerrepairbrooklyn
Mar 07, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Lurker2358
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
Can it get any worse than this?

We have digital cameras that can take a photo, but they make a stupid robot to sketch.
cmn
not rated yet Mar 08, 2012
Stupid robot, why doesn't it just use an inkjet printer. :P
Xbw
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
Because it prefers to not become jammed ever 2 pages :)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.