Judah vs. the Machines: SeuratBot is an artistic robot that knows art, but lacks purpose

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If art is a window into the soul, what does art discover when it peers deep into the inner workings of a robot?

In this installment of Judah vs. the Machines, actor Judah Friedlander tests his art skills against a robot designed to make visually appealing art in different artistic styles.

Friedlander met with Alex Reben, a robotics designer in Berkeley, Calif., who built a robot that can take images and recreate them with unique flairs. The robotic creation, called SeuratBot in honor of the French post-Impressionist painter, may not be pouring its heart and soul into the artwork it creates, but its technical skills make it a formidable competitor for Judah — who is obviously very passionate about the finer things.

Before jumping into a competition of artistic prowess, Friedlander took a tour of Reben’s home, or, as he saw it, the “haunted robo-mansion.” The place is filled with a bunch of weird zany knife-wielding robots and all-around weird things that seem very on-brand for Berkeley.

The art challenge was a doozy. With a model sitting in front of them, Judah and SeuratBot were forced to quickly sketch a portrait of her. After Reben gave SeuratBot a photo to work with, he instructed it to create a portrait in the style of pointillism.

A bona fide art critic was brought in to judge the art and, staying true to style, he was more impressed by the emotion embodied in Judah’s work than the cold unfeeling photorealism of SeuratBot’s attempt. Though the robot may just be a glorified printer mixed with some fancy photo filters, aren’t we all just printers operating off pre-conceived notions birthed from stimuli we can’t control?

Check out the video above for some more insight on art, AI and why Isaac Asimov didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.

See all eight episodes of Judah vs. the Machines here.