Apr 11, 2016 | By Tess

Credit: Wojciech Jarosz

While robots have been designed and made to take over many of our menial tasks in life, there is one sphere of production that has for the most part remained dependant on the human element: the production of art. Now, however, thanks to a team of researchers from Dartmouth University, even art, in the form of large-scale spray painted murals, can be done by a robot.

The team of Dartmouth researchers led by Wojciech Jarosz, an assistant professor of computer science, have invented a sort of smart paint spray that utilizes a number of technologies including 3D printing, QR codes, and webcams, to reproduce existing images or photographs as a giant mural. And while the breakthrough may not result in a number of gigantic, robot executed street-art style murals around cities, the technology could have an impact on digital fabrication processes, as well as digital and visual arts, and artistic stylization.

The prototype for the smart spray paint can consists of a standard spray can fitted into a 3D printed mount, which is equipped with two webcams and QR-coded cubes which can track the movement of the can. A small servo motor, connected to a radio transmitter, also controls the spray nozzle of the can, determining when and where paint is sprayed. To use the system, a person or designated holder for the paint can, simply moves the can around in front of a blank canvas or wall space. A real-time algorithm running on a computer system near to the can then transmits information to the smart device effectively telling it where, when, and how much to spray to reproduce an uploaded image. Additionally, the algorithm lets the smart spray can user know when the color should be changed, making for intricate and similar reproductions.

"Typically, computationally-assisted painting methods are restricted to the computer," says co-Jarosz. “In this research, we show that by combining computer graphics and computer vision techniques, we can bring such assistance technology to the physical world even for this very traditional painting medium, creating a somewhat unconventional form of digital fabrication. Our assistive approach is like a modern take on 'paint by numbers' for spray painting. Most importantly, we wanted to maintain the aesthetic aspects of physical spray painting and the tactile experience of holding and waving a physical spray can while enabling unskilled users to create a physical piece of art.”

Credit: Wojciech Jarosz

For now, the research team at Dartmouth University have only tested their smart product on large sheets of white paper, effectively allowing non-artists to accurately recreate images on a large scale in mural form. Though currently limited to 2D imaging, the team is confident that with further development they can adapt their product to be used for more complicated surfaces.

The project has been a collaborative effort between Dartmouth College, Columbia University, ETH Zurich, and Disney Research Zurich.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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