Driven By Bee Logic, A Robot Draws Giant Art

Technology mimics nature in ways your eyes would never see.

From your first glance, you’ll know it’s either the work of a dutiful robot or a relentless madman. In truth, maybe it’s a little of both. Mind Out is a 20-foot cube, every inch of which is covered by a single, unbroken, zigzagging line drawn over two weeks.


The robot at work runs software coded largely by Mattias Jones, who was himself inspired by “a deep and abiding love of pattern.”

“The algorithm used for determining the pen’s route is based on how bees choose their own path flower to flower,” Jones tells Co.Design. “Whilst being up to my elbows in the maths and code of it, the reasons for choosing [the aesthetic] were purely visual–I appreciate the very organic shapes that occur from lots of short, straight lines.”

The result is enchanting. It’s a mind-numbing pattern, filled with the 2-D hypnotic equivalents of fractals and clothes dryers. So it may surprise you that Mind Out is essentially just a proof-of-concept that it’s possible to print precisely calculated lines on a grand scale. And at the same time, despite its mechanical nature, Mind Out’s connection to nature resonates on a deeper level than insect logic. It’s, in a strictest sense, highly materially efficient.

“There seems to be a trend for people to call their work ‘ecologically friendly’ and the like. It made me start overthinking the term ‘eco-art,’” Jones explains. “The nature of finding a shortest line solution means that the minimal amount of lines, ink, and time spent are needed to complete the artwork. It satisfies what ‘eco-art’ means to me as a maker.”

We tend to frame robots as hyper-efficient task managers, the perfect peons to screw bolts on cars or complete other menial, repetitive tasks. It’s rare that we consider their remarkable efficiency as a potential contribution in the realm of art. But in reality, their ability to render information at its least fettered could become a whole school of thought unto itself.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.