Pity the poor industrial robot. It spends countless hours toiling away at mindless manual labor, never getting a chance to explore its creative side. Well, next month at the CeBIT digital technology trade show, one such robot will get the opportunity. When visitors to the Fraunhofer display take a seat on a provided stool, one of the company's industrial robots will create a pencil sketch of them, then hold up the finished product for everyone to see.

The installation was created by artists from the robotlab group, at the Center for Art and Media, located in the German city of Karlsruhe. They collaborated with scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation, which is where the robot works. On a typical day there, it will move its light sensor-equipped arm in an arc around a product that's designed to be reflective (such as a child's safety reflector), assessing how well it returns light to a light source.

At CeBIT, it will start each portrait session by taking a still image of its human subject, using a camera mounted on its arm - that arm will also hold a pencil. It will then analyze that image using edge-processing software, to identify areas of contrast on and around the person's face. The team had to tweak the algorithm in order to make sure that the robot identified obvious objects such as eyes, but didn't concentrate too much on things like wrinkles. In the last step of the drawing process, the identified areas of contrast will be translated into coordinates, dictating the movements of the robot's pencil-wielding arm.

It should take the robot about ten minutes to create each sketch.

CeBIT takes place March 6th to 10th in Hanover, Germany.

Source: Fraunhofer