The RETAG is a community robot programmed to help repair existing professional graffiti that has deteriorated over time or produce new works of art with teenagers hanging around in the streets. They could be rented and operated by cities wishing to embellish streets or buildings that need a ‘touch of love’ and it could be a way to reduce vandalism and social tension.
Last year, my garage on the Plateau Mont-Royal was tagged by graffiti just a few days after we had installed a new garage door. As upsetting as it was, it got me thinking about creating a robot able to clean up the mess, create a really innovative technical design to cover it, and even help the taggers at the same time.
How it Works
The RETAG is a human-sized robot (5’ 10’’) with a bipedal shape like the Kortus. It would be designed to repaint over illegal graffiti or cover surfaces with newly-commissioned works of art by the owner of each structure.
RETAG Robots would be dropped off on site by an autonomous municipal van and supervised by a team leader working for the city. Each RETAG would be able to receive verbal commands so a human artist could work with them to create new types of canvas and experiment new techniques. The robots would use wireless inductive charging to quickly refill their supercapacitor cells at stations throughout the city already used by electric vehicles.
A rack of spray paint canisters would be mounted on its back, from which it would be able choose different base colors and add pigments if necessary. The robot could also carry a duffel bag with extra supplies. Its cameras would be able to detect millions of colors and differentiate illegal graffiti from officially registered murals and art.
The most interesting part of the robot would be its ability to assist kids in creating real works of art on their own because it would know where it’s okay to tag a structure, and it would converse with each kid and detect their emotions. It would also be able to use local slang words or dialects to quickly fit in and try to lead by example.
The RETAG could be sold to large cities and governments to paint certain areas such as viaducts, buildings and other infrastructures. The materials and even the robots could be sponsored by companies. RETAG robots could also be used by schools or any complex that has a lot of concrete sprayed with graffiti. Of course, the social side of the robot could be developed in various ways.
I would like to thank Adolfo Esquivel, who designed the RETAG. Adolfo earned an Industrial design degree from Colombia and completed a postgraduate study on Events Design at the UQAM of Montreal. He currently works as a Senior Industrial Designer in Laval, Canada. Adolfo also created the design of the Ikaros skydiving glider and the Voyager virtual reality hotel concept.