The Birth of Robot Graffiti

Benjamin Tamondong, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, Febuary 26, 2029

California's  "zero tolerance" policy is extreme compared to 20 years ago for punishments dealing with graffiti (Penal Codes 640.5, 640.6, 640.7, & 640.8) and possession of vandalism tools (Penal Code 594.2).  Today, first offenses can no longer be given the minimum infraction charge.  All cases of graffiti are now misdeamenors for first offenses less than $250 in property damage and a felony charge for offenses greater than $250 in property damge.  2 or more offenses results in a felony charge as well.  Fines can range from $1K to $50K and/or sentenced to 1 year minimum imprisonment in a county jail.  These harsh punishments have forced the creation of a new way to execute tagging, stenciling, graffiti pieces, and laser graffiti (video).  What were mere concepts, born 20 years ago are now a realistic necessity to the graffiti artist.  Yes, robots have taken over!

Hektor. First ever, laptop commanded robot. Seen here in its debut originally guided by strings. Click photo for videos.

They are more ninja than the average human graffiti vandal by being smaller, faster, quieter, and in some cases more accurate.  They reduce the risks that come with "getting up" on hard to reach places like freeway structures, skycrapers, billboards, bridges, etc.  Advances in technology have created relatively low homemade costs which helps justify getting a robot confiscated or destroyed by local authorities.  With costs as little as $129 for radio or $259 for cell phone controlled devices and about a thousand dollars for programmable robot units (depending on the speed and paraphernalia capacity), graffiti writers are able to give robots a new purpose of street crime and art.

Climbs wall using synthetic feet
similar to a gecko.

All this would not be made possible if it weren't for the wall climbing robots and flying robots.

What's next? Since most graffiti is done during nightfall and at early morning hours where temperatures are cooler, Thermochromic paint and ink have been rumored to making its way into the graffiti artists' arsenal.  The idea is that the ink/paint goes on invisible only to appear visibly to the human eye once its temperature has risen, usually during sunrise.  Programmable robots, which know their positions at all time using camera(s) and/or G.P.S. can apply the paint/ink invisibly on the wall generating minimal attention to itself; disguised as a wall surveying robot.  For artists who still like to do the tagging and spraying themselves, the media they use must be kept at a high enough temperature, achieved by warming up the marker with hand friction or with spray cans utilizing a warming sock.  In addition to appearing, the color would continue to change as the temperatures rise and fall.  This will open the door to artists looking for new ways of displaying graffiti after following the robots' lead of new ways to execute it.