Remember this iconic scene from the movie version of Isaac Asimov's 1950's classic I, Robot?
("No, I can't create great art" Sonny, I, Robot)
A recent art project experiment at TU Wien in Austria comes pretty close.
The basic idea of string art is simple: hooks distributed on a frame are connected by strings back and forth until they fuse to a perceptible image.
At TU Wien (Vienna), this kind of creation of artistic images has now been automated: the computer calculates the optimal thread path from an arbitrary given image and an industrial robot then takes over the job of arranging the thread.
"From a scientific point of view, this is a very interesting problem because it is particularly difficult to solve," says Przemyslaw Musialski from the Institute for Discrete Mathematics and Geometry at TU Wien. In general, a picture cannot be exactly reproduced in this way - after all, the thread method cannot be used to set individual pixels, but only to draw continuous lines. It is therefore necessary to find the best possible approximation.
This is a challenge: the number of different ways to span a thread between a larger number of hooks is astronomical. It is completely impossible to try all conceivable variants. "This task belongs to the so-called NP-hard problems," says Musialski. "This is the class of computing problems that cannot be solved accurately by computers in a reasonable amount of time."
To create the image, a circular frame with 256 hooks is used. "Our calculations have shown that increasing the number of hooks any further improves the final result only marginally," says Przemyslaw Musialski.