Tortured-artist robot trawls beaches, scrawling poems in the sand

Our current robots can do everything from laying bricks to carrying out complex legal work. In this increasingly dystopian, post-jobs world, it seems all mankind can do is wander the desolate beaches, waves lapping at our feet, and scratch futile poems into the sand, bemoaning what a cruel twist of fate we have sprung on ourselves. Oh, wait! It seems that robots can now do that job as well — based on a new robot poet project carried out by a graduate from the University of Edinburgh.

What Yuxi Liu has created for her master’s thesis is a project called “Poet on the Shore,” which takes the form of an autonomous, 3D-printed robot that potters around the beach writing poetry in the sand beneath its wheels. (We like to imagine it as what might happen if you trained a convolutional neural network on every episode of teen angst drama Dawson’s Creek ever!)

“‘Poet on the Shore’ is part of my master dissertation in Design Informatics, exploring sensibility, sociability, and morality of machines,” Liu told Digital Trends. “The project attempts to challenge the fundamental anthropocentric assumption regarding machines by giving the machine a voice.”

The idea is that the robot will eventually make use of its surroundings to generate poetry, much as a human poet may do. With this in mind, it’s equipped with various smart sensors for measuring external conditions, such as outside temperature and wind speed.

Liu says that the current prototype is not fully working in the sense of generating poetry, but she plans to work with machine-learning frameworks to make this possible. “I’m trying to work with TensorFlow and ConceptNet for the next step,” she said. What it can do in its current state is to automatically write out programmed poems, using an in-built device “similar to a drawing machine.”

Clearly, there is more to do, but the work touches on a point of real interest: Our assumptions about whether or not a machine can be creative. As Liu writes in her thesis, “‘Poet on the Shore’ is an attempt to challenge the anthropocentric assumption regarding machines by demonstrating the machine’s poetic sensitivity. The robot intervenes in the world. These interventions, expressed through the kinetic and poetic gestures, reveal its non-utilitarian existence: the verse it writes will eventually be washed away by the waves or winds.”

We look forward to the next step of the project. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch live-streamed future videos of a tortured artist robot forever scribbling self-destructing poems like they are Snapchat messages? That’s totes existential by Silicon Valley standards.

Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Smart Home

Getting down to the nitty-gritty: The best vacuums you can buy

Our expert reviewers took some vacuum cleaners for a spin to see which worked best. Whether you're looking for a traditional upright, stick, or robot vacuum, check out our picks for the best vacuums on the market.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.