Kinds of Robot 4 AMR

AMR = Autonomous Mobile Robot

This kind of robot is most interesting to me because of its potential for mark making.

Autonomous means the robot is fully self contained-- not tethered or cabled to a another computer and not remoted controlled. The robot must operate solely on its own behavior (sense, think, act). That makes software especially challenging. First, the computer is likely to be small and limited. Second, the software must be capable of dealing with many situations and not shut down or get confused. Fortuanately, the behavior based software scheme developed by Rodney Brooks at MIT provides a good model. See Joseph L. Jones, "Robot Programming, A Practical Guide to Behavior-Based Robotics" from Tab. If your robot book budget is for only one book this should be the one.

Mobile means the robot moves through its environment, senses things about that environment through touch, light, color, etc. For my work this means that the robot is mobile upon the canvas.

Most drawing by computers is done with plotters or printers. Plotters are usually bigger, sometimes much bigger than the paper it plots on. Most plotters and printers move the paper not themselves because they weigh much more than the target surface. My robots must be smaller than the canvas so that it can manueveur upon it. Also the robot weight matters because it cannot depress or dent the canvas -- the larger the canvas the more this matters because the distance between supports increases.

Most of my robots are walking robots. This contributes to the quality of the mark. Whenever something walks the moment comes when it must commit its weight to one foot so that the other side is free to move. This causes center of gravity shifting (COGS). I use COGS to increase the dynamics in the brushwork.

I have made painting AMR's for several years now. My robots continuously evolve and are significantly different than any other AMR's I have seen. First, I use actual paint brushes and must deal with the many dynamics of brush handling (pressure, direction, orientation, deflectioin, twisting and many more) This is a lot more than pressing a marker or pen down constantly.

Ken Goldberg has done a couple of projects that show awareness of brush dynamics and I am sure there are others. Harold Cohen engineered these dynamics out of his process.

I hope by this time that people realize that painting with robots is a lot more difficult than painting without robots.


Kinds of Robots 3 Manipulators

This group of robots contains the most accomplished machines by far. We mostly see these as industrial robots. This group is large and highly developed because it has substantial economic value.

Ken Goldberg has demonstrated with many projects the substantial opportunities for making art with this type robot.

One definition of a robot is a device that senses its environment, thinks and then acts. These robots have this capability, but probably not applied the way that first comes to mind. These robots are task oriented rather than goal oriented. The are able to repeat a previously defined task.

Usually these robots have a world view - an internal understanding of their the world around them - either predefined, like semiconductor manufacturing equipment or learned like automobile welding robots. This world view establishes, a priori, what is around the robot. Although these robots have sensors these sensors are dedicated to understanding the state of the robot itself to deliver very precise positioning with high reliability and repeatability.

A subset of this group is called automatons. You have seen these at Disneyland or Chuck E Cheese. The automatons of today use the same parts and techniques as robots, but their heritage goes back through Christmas window displays all the way to eighteenth century clockwork automatons. Things like birds, chess playing, even a minature secretary that wrote cards.

Robots lilke this are naturals for kinetic scupture as seen in the outstanding work of Alan Rath, Carl Pisatouro, and others.

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