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Utah Arts Festival: Robots making art

First Published      Last Updated Jun 26 2014 04:03 pm

Here's a question you never thought to ask: How long does it take a robot to draw a chicken?

The Makers/Tinkers Lab at the 2014 Utah Arts Festival has the answer: Exactly two minutes.

A device called "Pixels to Paint" is one of the gadgets the lab's organizers, members of Salt Lake City's maker community, have set up to show the possibilities of mixing art and technology.

"We're reappropriating commercial tools for fun and art," said Jesse Gomez, one of the makers running the lab on Library Square.

The "Pixels to Paint" box lets festivalgoers pick one of 24 designs, and lets an industrial robot re-create that design on paper. It's a bit slow-going in the festival's first hour, as Gomez and his colleagues realized each of the designs must be calibrated — which requires a computer programmer in Ogden to sent the relevant data up to the "cloud" to be retrieved for the robot's data banks.

"It's not about good classical art," Gomez said of the device. "It's about having a good experience to the machine."

Other features of the Makers/Tinkers Lab include a vacuum-form machine that can make custom chocolate molds, and a gadget called a "Makey Makey" that runs a tiny electrical current through an object so, as Gomez said, "you can turn a banana into a piano."

The maker movement aims, Gomez said, to take commercial high-tech tools and put them in the hands of regular people to make tangible objects.

Gomez said the maker motto is "bits into atoms," turning computer data into physical objects, through such devices as 3-D printers. "Now you can make it real, and put it back into the world," Gomez said.