The Robotart (that’s “Robot art”) competition aims to combine art and engineering to advance both fields.

Vincent van Bot: Of the 100 images submitted to the 2018 Robotart competition, a automaton called CloudPainter rose to the top, with evocative portraits featuring varying degrees of abstraction. One of its winning images (pictured above) was created by a team of neural networks, AI algorithms, and robots.

Artistic progress: Robotart’s founder, Andrew Conru, told MIT Technology Review that this year’s entries have shown refined brushstrokes and composition. “CloudPainter, the winner this year, has been involved all three years and has made the most improvement in his system,” he says. “The resulting work, while it still uses an inputted photo as reference, can execute paintings using different painting styles.”

Why it matters: It’s more than just a trick. By creating something beautiful using a physical brush and robotics, technology is pushing art forward—and vice versa. “AI advances in human mimicry or extension might also affect the fundamental connection between the artwork and those who interact with it,” says Conru.