Robot Art Competition

This was the one intriguing image from the article that got me to read it.

Apparently there’s a robot art competition and it’s a thing and it’s been going on for a while, at least according to VentureBeat. VB puts out a lot of interesting avenues to explore in terms of what people are doing in the field and from the surface, it’s mostly built upon machine learning.

My favorite aspect of the article revolves around someone who’s produced what sounds like a rather elaborate real-world robot to execute his creations,  and the rather long list of software that people are using in this competition all are things I intend to explore further. Hopefully with another blog post as we go down the rabbit hole together.

Personally, while the bulk of the artwork shown in the article appears more than a little derivative to me, I’m sure that this is the phase of ML art similar to the time in the late ’90s where everyone found digital art production.

That was a terrible time where everything that was new basically was somebody either painting just like they did only with digital means (woo! Wacom tablets!!!) or sliced and stacked myriad filters on stuff (have you seen the lates Kai’s Power Tools??) – sort of an Andy Warhol nightmare. I’m sure he’d have laughed.

Then things got really, really good – and all with the same software, well maybe not Kai’s Power Tools.

The Oddball Drum Machine

UI design is something that has, at certain points in time, an amazing amount of innovation. When any new software technology starts out, that’s when we see the most inventive come forward. Eventually, though the more interesting eventually gets beaten out of the market and we’re left with what amounts to VB widgets designed for confusing the human mind and hand instead. But sometimes, something new shows up further down in a technology’s maturity.

Such is the case with Oddball. There’s a real interesting dynamic being brought to music creation – a way to engage with software-based music making that proves to be something that could at least open up how we all think about creating music.  It’s also a nice way to break out of standard music software paradigms, which is good because if we all don’t watch out, we could end up making what’s easiest with the UI instead of what should be made.

For instance, with the bouncing aspect there’s an opportunity to create second and third degree actions after the initial. Sort of like having a sequential kick but now that second kick is nearly infinitely adjustable on the fly. I’m intrigued about how programmable the ball is in terms of what happens at each bounce and how assignable they would be. So yeah, I’m going to get one.

The product looks to have closed it’s Kickstarter already with flying colors and now has an Indiegogo set up with a pledge to ship in March of 2019. Create Digital Music has a better write up of the tech than I do, so I suggest for more heading there first.

The Power of Memes

Verge has a really nifty article about the social effects of memes and how they have the opportunity to impact the way society opperates – both good and bad. It’s a very interesting long-read article, including such quote gems as:

” …they are incredibly efficient at guiding viewers toward socially acceptable group behavior and away from actions that aren’t. Memes can keep people in check, allowing them to correct behaviors framed as unsavory or distasteful, because the core feature of viral content is its ability to tap into common, relatable emotions or experiences.”

I’m putting this up here because I think we all at some point wish our work to have the capability to have some sort of social impact. It’s interesting that it doesn’t have to take the shape of an installation piece, it could be just a bit of well-designed Photoshop kludge collage work.

The Age-old Art Question in the Machine Learning Era

Recently, through a bit of an obfuscated path, I happened across a group called Obvious who are working on using machine learning to create artwork. While I’ve (and I’m sure most here) heard of ML being used to categorize and quantify art, it’s interesting to see if ML can actually create on its own – or if it can only elaborately remix prior work.

 

Looking to find more about the group, I eventually stumbled up on this Medium article where it discusses the use of ML and whether it constitutes ‘art’ at all.

Curiously, I recall the same sorts of arguments being constructed around generative efforts ten or so years ago. Both arguments orbit around the degree of the human artist’s ‘hand’ in creating the work and at what level of involvement is necessary before the work becomes art. A tricky question to say the least. While purely generative pursuits had to fight against the notion that one was picking through iterations of randomness to find a usable gem, I’m thinking ML is probably going to fight the notion that it’s an elaborate remix platform – where people search through variants to find a usable gem.

For me, I’d like to see how the machine learning system creates the work and at what level is it combining prior work or creating new techniques. There is a link to a GitHub repository so I guess I have my opportunity to look under the hood.

 

Nagami’s Uncommonly Nice Looking 3D Printed Chairs

Nagami – who has not only introduced me to some pretty nice looking printing but also to the fact that ‘.design’ is actually a real, top-level thing – are the group behind these images featured on DesignMilk.

Thanks Nagmai and DesignMilk!

Typically, I’ve found 3D printed furniture to be a bit more on the proof-of concept side of things (probably because they’re usually technology dog-and-pony shows heavy on the shiny bits of technology but light on thoughtful design), these actually look stunning. Makes me wish I had an industrial robotic arm with a massive print head attached to it. Would certainly like to see these done in a few hours, as advertised. And the filament color transitions…

This is where having your own industrial robot pays off.

Head over to DesignMilk to see more pictures and certainly swing over to Nagami’s site for even more.

The Peculiar Utility Manifesto

At any one point in time there’s a globe of really amazing artists, designers, musicians, architects (and other roles for whom I don’t even have the right name for) creating amazing things at the intersection of art and technology, but it’s amazingly difficult – at least for me – to find these projects and people.

I also know that at the very least, cross-pollination is the elixir that creates the conditions for a lot of these people and projects to develop truly awe-inspiring things. For all my travels, I haven’t been really successful at finding a site that brings all these disparate seekers together. I am aiming to make OfPeculiarUtility.com that site.

Therefore the goal of this site will be to draw attention to cutting edge, creative projects, people, material and technology, as well as to dive into some of the surrounding esoteria and background. The site will hopefully create connections and maybe advance some thinking in the process. More specifically, I’d like the site to explore the specialized software, programming languages and tangible technologies implemented or in development and how people are using them to create art, design or other sorts of composition that are beyond what’s commonly thought possible – even explore some of the historical projects, people and ideas that what we do now is built on.

Conversely, the site will not talk about things like minimalist interior design, the history of common typefaces, Basel Art Fair “contemporary” art, design mantras, the 10 best WordPress plugins or explore handmade craftsmanship as a pursuit in itself. There’s plenty of sites out there for each of them, one more site isn’t as necessary.

And most importantly, I’d like this to be for the artists and maybe someday also by the artists. Further, I hope the posts might become a sort of place where ideas can be further considered and expanded, so comments on.

This probably won’t be easy and currently I’m just one person. So, fellow traveler, experimenter, and/or innovator, if you see something that fits with the tenants above, please send it to me and I’ll do my best to share.  After all, it was the artists, while not always inventing technology, who were the trailblazers in showing the world what new developments could do – and that still holds but now we should be doing a better job of knitting a global community to share and advance.