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Meet C-3P van Gogh

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A software developer toiled away for years building robots to make your next family portrait. His best one yet is ready for release.

Meet C-3P van Gogh

Pindar Van Arman is a technology artist who has worked on several robots to help people create art. The most recent one is called bitPaintr, and it allows a user to guide a robot through the creation of a painting. The robot is a high-tech tracing machine with a robotic paint brush. A photograph is uploaded to the robot and it appears on the user’s tablet. When a line is drawn, the robot dips its brush into the paint and replicates the stroke onto a canvas. Pindar says the actual painting takes an entire day to produce on one of the printers in his Tysons-based studio. 

Meet C-3P van Gogh

Pindar, who works as a software developer for a government contractor, became interested in robots after working on a DARPA challenge to build a driverless car in 2005. His team placed sixth out of 120 after crashing at mile 82 of the final race in Nevada. Pindar went through several iterations of the robot, including one that crowd sourced a painting. Several people could contribute to a painting, but then hackers ended up trying to disrupt Pindar’s servers. Because robots are so much more affordable to build now, several other art robots have been developed. But most of them are at the university level, says Pindar.

Meet C-3P van Gogh

He recently launched a Kickstarter to raise money for an exhibit of people’s portraits produced using the robot. He’s hoping people will also pay to use the robot to paint their own self portraits or ones of their kids. (A bid of $25 for a postcard portrait.) And eventually he’ll have a robot that can produce a painting in a few minutes rather than several hours. He also plans to revisit the concept of a crowdsourced painting, but he would require people to pay a small amount to do it and then he would sell the painting and share the proceeds with them.