Once the realm of just science and technology, robots now are turning up more and more in the world of fine arts, making appearances in art exhibitions, creative promotional campaigns, and even on stage in the theater.
A recent art exhibition at Davidson College in North Carolina featured several robotic installations specifically aimed at fostering interaction between visitors and robots. In one, five appendages with skeletal-looking hands mounted on a wall follow and point at onlookers who enter the room. When they sense a smile, the arms wave.
In another, three helium-filled balloons carry houseflies in chambers hanging from each blimp. A robotic system determines the movement of the blimps based on the movement of the swarms of flies inside each chamber.
We've collected examples of some of the other ways designers and artists have integrated robots into the creative arts. Click on the "Nerdbot" below to start the slideshow.
A Missouri couple has built an entire online business out of creating and selling art-inspired robots. Their site, Nerdbots, features a number of robots made out of found and unusual objects. Fanfare, pictured, consist primarily of the parts of an old rotary telephone. Most of the robots are crafted from objects the couple finds in antique and thrift stores and are priced in the $250 to $300 range. (Source: Nerdbots LLC)
Elizabeth, I have read several articles in the past three years about groups striving to develop self awareness in either computers and robots. And while I share some of your doubts about the probability of their success, I also regard them as courting a real potential for disasters in a number of different ways. I see it as similar to a bunch of more radical college students attempting to create home-made atomic weapons. That is, I don't see anything beneficial that can come from self aware robots, or even just computers.
That's an interesting idea, William K. I often think about how intelligent robots are getting and if they actually could have a real capacity for self-awareness, due to the fact that they are limited by the programming being done for them by humans. But were your theory to come true, it could make for some unpleasant scenarios. I don't know if it's really possible, though, since a robot is limited by what a human programmer can do, and I am not sure if self-awareness--which itself is so complicated in humans--could actually become part of a robot's artificial intelligence. But others can weigh in on this and correct me if I'm wrong.
Well in all the examples of robots replacing humans, AandY, I think you have found a new way to use them. It would be great if robots could replace humans as escorts not only at exhibitions but maybe even as hosts/hostesses at a restaurant. Although I think most people would still prefer a real person to do these things. But in the future, that could change.
I really love the idea of a robot at an art exhibition showing visitors around the room. As a designer (though not exactly an artist) I often find myself having to exhibit my designs to the world at some point. The problem with exhibitions is that you have to repeat the same facts over and over and this can really get exhausting. Having a robot do that for me is simply awesome and thanks Elizabeth for bringing that up.
Elizabeth, let us hope that robots never become "self aware", because at that point they will suddenly have personalities similar to the worst aspect of those programmers who create their basic progams. And that will be a rather bad situation, even worse if there are a lot of them. Just imagine an unhappy machine that lacks an adequate intelligence to understand an explanation of the real situation, and why it is satisfactory. And picture a robot that becomes bored doing robot tasks.
Robotic art is fine, the media can indeed be the massage, but it sould not attempt anything like real intelligence, only good reflexes and an ability to follow instructions.
Rob, much of Japanese culture seems to be an urgent need to be just like everybody else. That would tend to make the people identify with robots quite readily, since robots seem to come off an assembly line, all quite similar to each other. At least the industrial robots that I ammaquainted with all seemed to have identical personalities.
Yes, Chuck, it's just a matter of time. I actually think it won't be so long--maybe only a five years or so, depending on how quickly robots become adopted in the mainstream--before people forget that robots ever seemed weird or strange to be around. But maybe I'm just optimistic and think technology like helper robots for the elderly and Baxter for factories will become part of the mainstream quickly.
Yes, Rob, I wonder what it is about Japanese culture that makes them more comfortable with robots than other cultures in the world. I guess it has something to do with the tendency that makes things like anime and monster movies (I'm thinking of "Godzilla" ;)) popular in Japan. I wonder if anyone has done a sociological study about it!