It’s often thought that the creative world of art and the scientific world of tech can’t collide and that humans as a product of nature are completely opposite to our AI robotic creations. It’s a fairly black and white view of how things work, which doesn’t take into account how these two fields can feed into each other and grow and develop as a result. However, one artist is working in collaboration with a robotic arm to show how these areas are less distinct than we might think and how collaboration is key.
Sougwen Chung is an artist and research affiliate in MIT’s Media Lab and her project Drawing Operations sees her create drawings in collaboration with her Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 1, or D.O.U.G. Working alongside developer Yotam Mann, Sougwen has designed the robotic arm D.O.U.G to mimic her drawing in real-time by using a ceiling-mounted camera and computer vision. When Sougwen draws something, D.O.U.G mirrors her gestures, extending the drawing further across the page. Because of D.O.U.G’s slightly shorter reach it results in slightly different more compressed shapes which add something different to Sougwen’s freehand designs. You can see it in action below:
The synchronicity of the artist and the robot is oddly mesmerising to watch and it’s pretty weird to see a robot doing something like freehand drawing when we’re so used to attempts to achieve precise practical movements. Sougwen’s aim with the project is to investigate ideas of automation, autonomy, and collaboration as an exercise in behavioural empathy. So often we only consider AI and robots for their practical functions and how they can independently replace things we currently do rather than how we might be able to work collaboratively to create something bigger and better than either of us might have on our own. It’s a genuinely interesting project which brings together art and technology in a positive way, showing how one can expand the other when they collide.
Sougwen and D.O.U.G aren’t stopping here, though; this is just stage one of the investigation. There are plans to further explore areas of robotic and human collaboration by examining memory, autonomy and agency in the future. If you want to see more about Sougwen’s projects including this one, you can visit her website.
Main Image © Sougwen Chung