Emotional art by social robots

Halmstad University’s social robot Baxter can create paintings that express human emotions. Last year, Baxter’s paintings successfully participated in an international robot art competition. The emotions were transferred to the robot by brain waves from a famous Swedish artist, Peter Wahlbeck. This year, the robot art has reached the next level – Baxter has learned to paint as a performance, showing emotions itself and infusing these feelings into artwork.

Winning sixth place in last year’s international robot art competition encouraged the Halmstad research team to further develop the social robot Baxter’s emotional artwork. Robot art has also become a compulsory part of the Master's Programme in Embedded and Intelligent Systems at Halmstad University.

”Last year, Baxter painted with a frozen, blank face. Only the paintings expressed emotions, so it was like a computer printer just printing images. This year we wanted the robot too to show emotions”, says social robotics researcher Martin Cooney.

Red robot torso with arms and a display screen with a face superimposed on an illustrated abstract background

Robots need to be given ”life”

Martin Cooney and his fellow researchers at the School of Information Technology want to be more creative and innovative in their development of social robotics, and robot art is one example of this.

”Robots in factories might follow rigid programs – do this, do that.. But that’s not how humans work. In order for social robots to successfully interact with and help humans, they need to be given ’life’, complexity and randomness. The robot has to be able to both sense human emotions and express feelings of its own – just like humans do”, says Martin Cooney.

Six paintings from Halmstad University have been sent to the 2018 International Robotic Art Competition. A team of 24 Master’s students created the backgrounds of all paintings by using random movements of small platooning robots. The foreground was painted by Baxter, programmed to show a certain emotion through its ‘face’ and sound.

About the robot art competition

The 2018 ‘3rd Annual’ International Robotic Art Competition will have around 200 contributions competing for the prize sum of $100,000, of which a large part will go to charity. The winners are selected by weighing together the votes on Facebook (40 percent) and the votes of a professional jury (60 percent). The voting starts on April 16 and will close on May 11. The team from Halmstad competes as the ‘HEARTalion’ (Halmstad university Emotional Art RoboT). The best artwork from the competition will be sold in an art fair in Seattle in August.

More information and voting possibilities: External link, opens in new window.