String Art Courtesy Of Robot Artist

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.

(Via TU Wien.)


(String art by computer and robot)

I'd also add this creative cover art by Mel Hunter from Fantasy and Science Fiction of March, 1964:


(Robot artist cover graphic, 1964)

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