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)
Yeah, I actually wrote a story about the robot play when it was running in the U.S., Rob, but for one reason or another it didn't actually post on the site. But it was really interesting to talk to one of the actors and the playright and see what it was like to interact with robots, and what the audience reaction was. The Japanese seem to really like this sort of thing and be on the cutting edge of integrating robots more with humans.
Thanks, Chuck. Yes, I think that your take on that art exhibit is probably right, even if it wasn't the intention of the artist. I think also as people become more comfortable with robots in different venues like the ones in this slideshow, the uncanny valley effect will begin to diminish.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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