This project assists artists to paint and sculpt their masterpieces.



Tommaso is a device that attaches onto an artist’s arm to aid in the process of creating art. The arm makes recommendations in real time for the user to improve form, as well as provide insight for successful themes, colors, etc. The motors in the device allow for active steadying of the hand when creating artwork, whether it is paint, charcoal, or even sculpture.




We began thinking and discussing existing issues human mankind faces due to the advent of the Internet of Things. With the evolution of IoT, human beings are facing unintentional consequences such as having their decisions made for them by complex algorithms, as well as having too much unprotected data on them leading to data overload. Based on these consequences we came up with many “what-if’” statements where we considered issues and consequences for each scenarios. Ultimately, we decided to expand on the concept of “your digital self becoming autonomous.” Exploring various aspects that this scenario could fit in such as media consumption, shopping, socialising, traveling etc. we decided that the most concerning instance would be to have this scenario fit in a creative space. We then decided to use this scenario in a creative space and studied the ramifications of such an event.

Our Final Concept: Tomasso

Named after Michelangelo’s muse, Tommaso is a robotic arm and glove that influences the artist’s work based on its understanding of what the audience prefers. From coors to the shape, Tommaso dictates the artist’s creative space by telling him/her what figure to paint and what color to use. Tommaso does not let the artist make his/her own choices and explore his creativity by mechanically pushing and pulling his/her arm towards the right color or shape, using motors. Tommaso uses the artist as a mere flesh embodiment to paint what it thinks should be painted.

Why We Chose Tomasso

We chose Tommaso mainly because it is a concept that has never been implemented. While it could be beneficial, it might be extremely destructive for the human emotional quotient. The fact that the robotic arm and glove dictate the artist make it extremely autonomous and turn the artist into a mere puppet. The extremity and effect of Tommaso on the human emotions and creativity is what made us choose this concept.

How is Tomasso a concern for the Internet of Things?

Tommaso has barged into a space that is very unique and personal to every creative human being. It manages to digitize the most analogous side of the human mankind and replaces it with its binary results. It is often said that, “Artists should never aim for a consistency in taste” but Tommaso leads to an artist working towards consistency in his/her work thereby leading to a disruption of originality and individualism. The mere fact that this concept kills the most human side of today’s world, something that is personal and untouched by the advent of technology, is what makes it a huge concern for the Internet of Things.

Mark Davidson -

Design Recommendations 

1. Be mindful of and reactive to interactions with users

Our concept used physical controls to guide the behavior of the user (painter). For example, when the painter attempted to draw with a color that did not fall within the recommended colors for the piece at hand, the arm used force to move the painters arm towards the area of the palette where the ‘correct’ color was. Despite the verbal and physical protestations of the painter, the arm persisted, ignoring the will and agency of the user. Tools which provide machine-assisted intelligence, inspiration, skills, etc., should take note of users reactions and interactions with the product and have a built-in decision-making process for what to do in these situations. Perhaps, this decision-making process can be defined by the user.

2. Always provide a 'kill switch' or override

Our concept placed the intelligence, intuition, and decisions of the IoT product above that of the painter. While a painter might have purchased Tommaso for it to help their art by controlling their actions, it became clear that the painter ultimately wanted to be able to decide when and in what circumstance this support was helpful to them. If a product has no ‘kill switch’ or override, users can either stop using Tommaso or they may decide that they will change their behaviors to be able to continue to use the machine and accept the loss of some agency in the transaction. Users should not have to make this tradeoff.

3. Build the product with the same ethos as the area of application

Our application was the world of art and more specifically the medium of painting. The art world is driven by new ways of looking at the world and creativity. Historically, the most successful artists have been outsiders and divergent thinkers. Our product used data from a network of people (consumers and artists) in order to understand what elements were associated with, and potentially caused, a piece of artwork to be successful and marketable. Tommaso then, in contrast to way artists have historically done in the past, used this data to encourage the painter to be more like the masses. In a world where efficiency is often prioritized, this is not surprising, however, it does not suit the application at hand.

Products should be built around and driven by the ethos of the area they’re being applied to. This ethos should be explored by observing the target users, interviewing them, and understanding their multitude of goals, aspirations, and systems of beliefs.

4. Optimize to individuality and creativity

Currently, much of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are geared towards efficiency and optimization of what currently exists. Tommaso followed suit with an algorithm that took existing trends and applied them to shape future output. What resulted was a tool that created a product more and more similar to what might be considered popular or successful from the perspective of a network of people. Additionally, results from different attempts also began to look alike. With more and more outputs and processes in our lives being left to the judgement of algorithms, we must ensure that we are always looking towards creating products that reward uniqueness, individuality, and creativity (seeing old things in a new light). How this can be done with machine-enabled processes is still unclear, however, it’s worth noting as a challenge to try to bring to light.

5. Build in ways to monitor the impact on the user

While Tommaso was able to easily control the user, it did not impact the general state of the user’s perception of the task at hand or more generally their overall wellbeing. In our narrative, the painter goes from being at an emotional high when he starts using the product to being at a low point in his life when Tommaso has had its most profound impact. As products shape our lives more and more, it will be important for them to take note of the externalities of their use. Might a product be functioning perfectly but it’s causing its user to be unhappy or lose their ability to enjoy the company of others? These are things that should be in the realm of the product, considering they are controlling and changing the lives of emotional beings.

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49713 Designing for the Internet of Things

· 25 members

A hands-on introductory course exploring the Internet of Things and connected product experiences.


This project assists artists to paint and sculpt their masterpieces.


February 19th, 2018