Robonk AI Comic Strip Improvements

The software that builds Robonk has been significantly retooled for the next 256 strips. Lots of changes have happened. The rendering of the robot has become more rich, the robot has changed ever so slightly (and gained a new rug), panels are generated entirely in a new version of Bubblematic called Panelmatic (plus Titlematic for generating the title pages), the dating profile database has been reloaded, and there’s mild improvements for the script generation system.

New look and software

Robonk #00200-02

New robot rendering

The robot views are now rendered in POV-Ray, a “high-quality, Free Software tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics”. POV-Ray allows for a series of still images to be rendered with lighting effects. Being a command line tool that accepts options arguments, I was able to use PHP-CLI to call for the full series of angles and facial expressions needed to generate the panels for the strip.

Slightly modified robot with a new rug

Robonk (the robot) looks about the same, but there are changes:

  1. The tablet was shortened. It cuts less through the robot’s arm than before.
  2. The mouth and eye whites have been mildly moved from where they were. The eyeballs still stick out.
  3. Tiny changes to body element sizes.

The biggest change is the new rug. Before, it was the workplane in TinkerCAD, and now it’s an “actual” drawn rug.


  • Main Panels: Originally, the panels were composed in Photoshop with screenshots from TinkerCAD (strips #00000-#000FF). Later (strips #00100-#001FF), strips were created from Bubblematic (which drew the talk bubbles and fade background) and TinkerCAD (robot, chair, and rug) then merged together in Photoshop. The main panels are now generated in a browser-based program called Panelmatic (which was created from the older Bubblematic).
  • Texas Instruments Dataman educational calculatorTitle Panels: Title panels were originally made in Photoshop, using an action to scale and rotate the text on the robot’s tablet for each strip. Now, this is all done via Titlematic, a new tool using a web browser to generate the title panels. The title font for the strip was changed (with inspiration from the Texas Instruments Dataman educational calculator from 1977), the tablet has a new font, and the scene uses a different angle plus updated graphics from POV-Ray.

The biggest change with all of this is that Photoshop and TinkerCAD are no longer needed to generate a comic strip. A big savings in creation time while having an improved look. Using Titlematic is a multiplier (maybe 5x) faster than using Photoshop. Panelmatic also saves a significant amount of time while creating a nicer looping strip, though a chunk of those gains existed with the predecessor (Bubblematic).

Dating profile database reload

The database load was dirty (beyond just the content in the tables) and there was missing data. Everything was rebuilt/reloaded and now there’s more available profiles to draw from, and they’re more complete as well. The next set of strips (#00200-#002FF) will have more usernames on the title panels by percentage than before because the database is more complete.

Script generation

Behind the scenes, the script generation system Robonkers has seen mild improvements, which make everything easier to work with. It rejects a higher percentage of profiles compared to the earlier versions, but there’s more overall profiles to work with because the database reload increased the overall amount of accessible profiles. The character name for the human in the source dialogue is now “human:” rather than “you:”.

In conclusion

Robonk is ready to go for another 256 strips, and this will be the basis for the next 256.

AI Comic Strip Changes : New Look, New Software

Most comic strips evolve. Peanuts did. Dilbert did. Beetle Bailey did. I’m not saying Robonk is in the same league at all. What I am saying is that the cartoonist learns and evolves their strip. That’s a real thing.

Here’s the visual changes to Robonk in the first two years:

Alpha level : Spring 2017

Gotta start somewhere.

v1.0 : First real Robonk strip (#00000)

The robot got its own font. The title panels were massively improved.

v1.05 : (#000B9)

Same basic system as before, but some technique changes were developing. Robonk is generally zoomed in more and the talk bubbles at this point often have elements overlapped on top. Font size was reduced. This was the 177th strip.

v1.5 : (#00100) : The new look

The Robot is generated the same way as with the Alpha level strips (Tinkercad) but…

  • The bubbles have new individual looks for the robot and the human.
  • The human has a new font.
  • The background has a blue fade.
  • The bubbles are created using a newly written (just for Robonk) jQuery/HTML/CSS system called Bubblematic.

Bubblematic makes creating strips much, much faster. I used to spend a large chunk of time building the quote bubbles. Now, Bubblematic handles that quickly and with precision. Automation made the ELIZA AI writing process much more efficient (Robonkers system), and now the drawing side has a custom software tool too.

Here’s a screenshot of Bubblematic v1.0. I normally make prettier interfaces, but this is an inhouse tool for just me and it works nicely as is.

Bubblematic v1.0

Software doesn’t just write Robonk, it also draws the quote bubbles for the comic strip these days.

All the new software has improved the quality and speed of creating new Robonk comic strips. It makes me wonder what it’s like to actually write and draw a comic strip.