Founded by Pindar Van Arman
The Innovation: bitPaintr is a robot that paints portraits. And no, it’s not just some glorified printer, it’s an actual AI robot. When Pindar Van Arman set about creating Mr. Paintr, his goal was to build a system that did not just paint a portrait, but understands the painting. To do so, he’s designed software that uses neural networks (algorithms that imitate the brain) to create portraits that seem eerily like the work of a real human.
The Inspiration: Van Arman is a “technology artist.” Which means he gets to create cool works incorporating technology. He spent most of his life as a painter, but one day decided that he was bored with the tedious aspects of using paint and brushes and actually, you know, painting. Sure, he could’ve hired an assistant or a living apprentice, but what would be the fun in that? Instead, he set about designing literal painting robots, of which bitPaintr is the fifth iteration. With bitPaintr, he was able to start a website, cloudPainter, where users can submit an image for bitPaintr to recreate. And after a successful Kickstarter campaign, bitPaintr is so backed up with portrait orders that it’ll be painting almost non-stop till February.
Why it’s artistically awesome: Building a painting robot would be impressive by any metric, and five painting robots would be even better. But the real genius of bitPaintr is in the software. bitPaintr reimagines portraits using a complex set of algorithms, reimagining it the way a human would. This gives bitPaintr some impressive features, like deciding autonomously when the portrait is finished. It can choose between a set of photos and decide which one it likes the best. If someone decides to add a few brush strokes of their own to the painting, bitPaintr can even incorporate these additions to the portrait and try to paint in the new style.
Van Arman’s invention has been getting lots of attention, especially once he gave a TEDx talk on his creation. He was even recently invited to attend the White House tech and innovation festival, South by South Lawn. His goal is to eventually make it easier for people to paint for themselves, whether by learning on their own, or by having a talented bot take over the messy work. And he's currently working on next and latest robot that will have way more paintbrushes and even airbrushes so that the robot can paint faster, or you know, eventually take over the world.