You are here

Metal Rebel to be Featured Muralist at Life Is Beautiful

UNLV's humanoid robot, designed to save lives in disasters, will showcase a distinctly different talent at the annual art and music festival this weekend.

Campus News  |  Sep 23, 2015  |  By Megan Downs
Joel Trubatch works with Metal Rebel

UNLV Engineering undergrad lead Joel Trubatch works with Metal Rebel while preparing him for his Life is Beautiful mural. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

Metal Rebel, UNLV’s humanoid robot, is now exploring his artistic side. This weekend, Metal Rebel, which competed this summer in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics competition, will paint a large mural at the Life is Beautiful Festival. The event will expose high-level robotics technology to a whole new audience of 60,000 festival-goers. Life is Beautiful is an inspirational music, food, art, and learning festival held in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.

“People don’t often get a chance to see and interact with robots that represent the current state-of-art technology,” said Joel Trubach, a mechanical engineering undergraduate student and one of the key members preparing the robot for the festival. “Painting is an excellent outlet for this as it emphasizes the anthropomorphic aspects of Metal Rebel, making him, and by extension robotics, more approachable.”

Metal Rebel will paint a stylized skyline of the Strip that is about three feet high and five feet long. Spectators can catch Metal Rebel at the festival’s Art Motel during daylight hours. The team anticipates it will take most of the day Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26, and that the painting should conclude sometime Sunday, Sept. 27.

Metal Rebel took the title of eighth best in the world at the DARPA Robotics competition over the summer. He was designed to complete specific tasks such as climbing stairs, turning valves, and driving a car. So the team in UNLV’s Drones and Autonomous Systems Laboratory (DASL) had to teach the robot how to manipulate the tools used to paint the mural. DASL is run by Paul Oh, Lincy Professor for Unmanned Aerial Systems at UNLV.

“Academically, it posed an interesting challenge,” Trubach said. “There have been robots that create art, but most of them were designed specifically for the task, and always in a highly controlled setting. Using a more general-purpose humanoid out in the real world allows us to demonstrate how the robot can interact with its environment.”

Metal Rebel’s artistic support team includes: Trubach, Youngbum Jun, and Giho Jiang, all postdoctoral research scholars for the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering; Sang-Duck Seo, interim chair of UNLV’s art department; Abraham Abebe, UNLV art student; and professor Baek-Kyu Cho from Kookmin University in South Korea, who helped modify algorithms the robot needed to attempt this new task. Trubach, Jun, Jiang, and Cho were all on the team that competed in the DARPA Robotics Competition.

After the Life is Beautiful Festival, Metal Rebel also will try his hand at playing an instrument at the Summerlin Festival of the Arts on Oct. 10 & 11 in Downtown Summerlin.