Robot painter attracts crowds at fair

Writer: Yang Mei  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2017-11-21
A visitor holds a sketch of her and poses for a photo with the robot.

Email of the writer:

More often than not, you need to sit still in front of a painter for hours in order to have a portrait sketched of yourself, but at the ongoing China High-Tech Fair, the time is reduced to just five minutes, since the sketch is done by a robot.

At the booth of Shenzhen Academy of Robotics you can reliably find a long line of fairgoers, men and women, young and old, waiting for the robot developed by the academy to draw their portrait.

The robot, wearing a beret and glasses, is called Sai Dai-Chien, which literally means “better than Chang Dai-Chien,” who was a Chinese splash-ink painting master of the 20th century.

The robot is connected through Wi-Fi to a mobile application that has different commands to control the robot such as “Take Photo,” “Lower Head,” “Turn Right or Left” and “Draw.”

To get their portrait sketched, all visitors need to do is stand in front of the robot. The cameras installed in the eyes of the robot will take a snapshot, then the “painter’s” human assistant will tap “Draw” on an iPad and a sketch will be finished within five minutes by the robot.

“After the robot takes a picture of a person, the photo will be transmitted to the app in seconds, and I’ll ask the person whether he or she is satisfied with the photo, if yes, I will tap ‘Draw’ and the robot will start drawing,” explained Liu Zubing, an engineer with the academy, adding that “at present the robot can only capture a rough outline of a person’s face, therefore, it still needs to be developed further.”

Nevertheless, big crowds have been attracted to the booth, because they want a free sketch of themselves, and Fang Fang was one of them. “When I was looking around in the hall, I saw that there was a painting robot and I thought that’s interesting. I want to have a try,” Fang told Shenzhen Daily. “But 80 percent of the reason I am willing to line up is that I want to send the sketch to my nephew who studies at China Central Academy of Fine Arts to show him how good a robot is at painting,” Fang continued.

A self-proclaimed shutterbug, Fang is satisfied with the sketch. “I think the sketch is pretty good. It looks like me in spirit since the robot could only capture a rough facial outline,” Fang said.

Priced at 280,000 yuan (US$42,252), the robot is mainly popular to rent, which costs 10,000 yuan per day. According to Ms. Yang, a marketing specialist with the academy, the robot is favored by shopping malls, large-scale conferences, wedding ceremonies and hotels that want to promote products and liven up events. “In fact, the robot was originally designed for industrial use, but now it has entered people’s daily lives to bring them joy, and it has been very popular among the public,” said Yang.