Robot Creates Beautiful Light Paintings

Thymio II is a simple robot with simple programming, but it can create amazingly beautiful long-exposure light paintings

2 min read
Robot Creates Beautiful Light Paintings

I don't know exactly who was the first person to figure out that robots could be used for long-exposure light painting (although it may have been the guy linked to from here), but it's something that I've dabbled in for science, as have many others. It's a great way of making art, too, and it's relatively easy to do with a minimal amount of hardware and programming knowledge. Thymio II shows us how.

Thymio robots are equipped with an array of programmable LEDs, and it's very easy to get them to do simple behaviors, like driving around in trajectories that combine lines and curves. Mariane Brodier created all of the images shown here by pre-programming motions, cycling the LEDs through color changes, and then letting the robot go nuts in a dark room while pointing a camera at it with the shutter open for a minute or two. Here's some of what she came up with, along with her descriptions:

The following image has been programmed only with colours, therefore without movements; in order to make this picture, the robot oscillated at the end of a wire that unrolls itself.

For this sequence, I was inspired by the Tangram, a Chinese puzzle that comes from splitting a square into 7 basic parts: five triangles, a square and a parallelogram. The robot being able to make only lines or curves, I could program the outline of several puzzles.

For this sequence, I based my work on the "crop circles" that are often attributed to aliens.

This sequence looks much like the first, except that instead of using all colors, only two colors are alternated making dotted lines. This sequence is the last I made, therefore the trajectories are much more complex that in the first sequence.

There are lots more cool pics at the link below, and you can buy a Thymio II robot for about US $100 right here. Doing this sort of thing with just about any programmable robot with lights on it is reasonably straightforward, and if you come up with anything particularly cool, email us your pics.

[ Aseba ]

Thanks Francesco!

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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