• 03.21.14

Watch This Robot Paint Delicate Watercolors

Turns out robotic art is not that different from the art created by a wasp!

Watch This Robot Paint Delicate Watercolors

We stumbled across this project, called Turbulence, over on Prosthetic Knowledge: it’s a series of paintings, done charmingly in watercolor, by a robot. The robotic arm quickly traces three-sided polygons, over and over, creating an oddly beautiful sort of geometric figure almost like a honeycomb.


I reached out to the creator of the project, who asked me not to use his name. “Please refer to me as ‘Dr. Woohoo’ and not my given name because it’s more mysterious that way,” he wrote in an otherwise very helpful email. Okay, Dr. Woohoo! Anyway, this project was created by Dr. Woohoo.

“This is the first in a series of experiments using different art-related media that explore the relationship between the artist, myself in this case, and a robot,” Woohoo writes. This particular project is done in red and blue, with a bit of software deciding which color should be used when. That’s done with what’s called the Perlin Noise: it’s an effect (for which creator Ken Perlin actually won an Oscar, as it’s been used in many many films since) that simulates randomness. Its original use was to make things like water or smoke look less uniform, and thus more natural, but Woohoo used it to tell the robot what color to paint.

The shapes are done automatically as well; Woohoo started with a simple hexagon and then used software to repeat that shape over and over again to cover a canvas.

The robot itself is a Universal Robot UR10, outfitted with a two-fingered Robotiq gripper. Woohoo says he limited the degrees of freedom–basically, how many directions it can move in–to three or four, out of a possible six (up, down, left, right, forward, backward) . Basically the robot can only paint on a two-dimensional plane; Woohoo says that a project with all six degrees of freedom is much more difficult to program, but that he’ll attempt it in his next project.

You can read more about Dr. Woohoo’s projects at his site.

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.