Pindar Van Arman has spent more than a decade teaching robots to become painters. He’s trying to build real artists — not glorified printers or Instagram filters but algorithms that make creative decisions and develop their own style over time.
Van Arman is a computer security contractor in northern Virginia. The hardware for his robot artists is pretty simple, and it can be built for a few hundred dollars. But it’s the software that’s complex. It can apply the style of one image — say, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” — to another, like a photo of someone’s face. A camera takes photos after each brushstroke, so the AI can analyze its work as it progresses.
“It’s in the uncanny valley in that I am trying to replicate human creativity. It does make some people uneasy,” Van Arman said. “Obviously a robot won’t be able to make emotional artwork until it is emotional. But that doesn’t mean that if we look at a piece of [robot] artwork, we can’t get emotions from it.”
This segment originally aired August 3, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.