Visions of the Future
It is forever amazing how we can find ourselves opening up a new door and discovering even more opportunities. I have explained how my disability, an idea, and a scientist who loved my work led to the creation of a new language. This language bridged art and technology leading to the development of my robotics. From there came a new type of designer glass created from a new space age UV Polymer that could be applied to a range of new products. I have felt that this was one heck of an innovative run already, but then another wonderful idea came to my attention. This idea was so big that once it fully sunk in, I tried hard to forget about it.
There is one truth that every artist and inventor should know. You cannot go exploring for hidden treasure without the money in the bank to pay the bills while you’re gone, plus expenses. The bigger the idea, the more resources you need. The biggest idea for a project was introduced to me while working in the studio one afternoon. My good friend Dr. Carol Harrell from the Jeffersonian Institute walked in and proclaimed that, unbeknown to me I had invented “the perfect technology to teach young children the concepts of mathematics, geometry, and conceptual thinking!” I was taken aback considering that I was still figuring out how to use it as a painting tool. Here was an idea that was fascinating to contemplate!
There is one thing that is universal in children, they love to color. And one of the first questions they have as a child is “What color do I use?” The key to teaching is capturing the excitement and attention of the student, to make learning fun. What would be more fun for a child than making a robotic arm color a picture? We would have an activity that is totally captivating to the developing mind. By using color to teach fundamental math and geometry, we may have one of the most powerful tools yet invented for early education. The exercise in conceptual thinking would increase their success in most all advanced areas of learning their entire lives. Through the entertainment value of robotics, the fun of coloring a picture and watching it be created in the real world, we would have a powerful tool for early elementary education.
The idea of this technology evolving into a tool for education is an astounding one. Students could learn to control the robotics by deciding on what colors to use through math and simple geometric problem solving. In the virtual world the student would learn to work and navigate within a cube of space, or shall we say their pictorial design. In the digital world, they could grab that cube of space, turn it around, calculate the depth and position, and in the process gain a wider understanding of the problems they are solving. For the very young, software could be designed like coloring books for simple problem solving and as they learn the software projects would have a graduated level of increasing difficulty. The arts in elementary school are mostly ineffective in teaching artistic principles for they mostly focus on crafts. So many people think in two dimensions, having great difficulty with multidimensional concepts. My research as a student of education brought me to the conclusion that the most important time for a child to be exposed to drawing and coloring is between the ages of six months and four years. This is when the gray matter of the brain is at its most rapid growth and development. During this period parents are the primary stimulants to a child's growth and education. My father stuck a pencil in my hand before I could speak so I was given an arts education while my gray matter multiplying. The argument is; was it effective, genetics and talent or education and environment? I leave this debate to others, but my development as an artist should give evidence. In my humble opinion, technology such as this would enhance students capacity for conceptual thinking through all their educational pursuits.
Alas, this is not a path of innovation for even a small group of people, you would need a graphic art department with some highly gifted animators. When you total the cost of our invention alone, it came to approximately a million and a half dollars invested over eight years. The vast majority of that cost was in the many hours of code writing. The cost and time to develop this idea into a teaching tool would be much greater. It would be the graphic artists that are at the heart of this type of development. One would need their skills to create a virtual world where they teach real world coloring techniques that would exercise the young mind in a process of conceptual thinking. It would take engineers to redesign the plotting system into a light weight tool for the classroom which could be built from off the shelf technologies. When you consider all the different talents that need to come together, this idea would be ideally suited for a university project or for a major corporation. Universities have associations with industry that can bring manufacturing, product support and distribution. Then like the many of their science departments, the university could earn income through royalties. If we taught a robot to paint and explain the science behind how it does it, as it does it, we would have the first effective robotic technology that teaches and interacts in the classroom. Of course taking this to the point where the robot talks, that is again whole different amount of engineering, yet still from off the shelf technologies.
There could be unlimited numbers of ideas for the use of this technology. I have used this tool to create types of dotting styles for Matricism and Pointillism. We have experimented with a brush stroke execution and being able to design a process to create controlled brush strokes is just a matter of a little more engineering. With the many ways future artists could use and evolve this technology, it holds the potential of opening many new opportunities. Today, kids are brought up on computers and they learn to draw with a mouse. Some of our best talent is being drawn away from the traditional techniques of fine art and into computer graphics. When they enter the graphic art profession, they have many fields to apply their skills from games, movies, advertisement, etc. On the other hand, there has been few opportunities for the graphic artist to use his or her skills to challenge the fine art world. With our technology, for the first time they can turn their skills to building paintings in oils on canvas. This gives the graphic artist the ability to use their graphic tools to bridge the virtual into reality and create for the gallery industry. Today that opportunity for graphic artists does not exist outside my studio!
Just as it was created for me, there are many in the disability community that could be given the power to paint and create if the proper interface technology was applied. When the pain in my hands became so great that I had to put away my painting knives, John gave me back that ability to continue my explorations of Matricism. My disability was minor compared to so many. By fusing this technology with various forms of human interface devices there are few disabilities that couldn't be surmounted. As technology moves forward, it will eventually lead to the ability of creating a painting just by dreaming of the image you want. Similar to the experiments using brain waves to help a fighter pilot fly and the paralyzed send email, this is not far off in our future.
Over the last 10 years there have been many ideas for applications of this painting technology, for new products, for learning, to surmount disabilities, and more. These are all wonderful ideas, but alas not ones for a lone artist living and painting out in the country side. My hope is that others will see these potentials and pick up where I leave off. For us artists, it is not so much as what we do but what we leave behind that marks our measure. In light of this, I am open to any suggestion or partnership that could make such ideas a reality.