About once every couple of months one of my students sends me a video of ART+COM‘s mechatronic installation, made up of 714 metal balls for the BMW museum. ART+COM describe it as “a spatial translation of a design process. Seemingly weightless and guided solely by the power of the mind, the sculpture moves through a cycle of free abstractions and typical BMW vehicle forms.”
I just came accross the work of Joe Gilbertsons formally similar kinetic installation and thought I’d place the two side by side. While one is majestic in its use of precision motors and software systems, there is something equally majestic in Gilbertson’s use of simple motors and cranks.
Etoy.corporation launched the Mission Eternity Project in 2005, foregrounding on the one hand respect for the human longing to survive in some way after death, and on the other a sense of irony about dated sci-fi fantasies we contrive to satisfy that desire. The Sarcophagus is one materialization of this project. It is a mobile sepulchre that holds and displays portraits of those who wish to have their informational remains cross over into a digital afterlife. The size of a standard cargo container that can travel to any location in the world, the Sarcophagus has an immersive LED screen covering its walls, ceiling and floor. There, interactive digital portraits can be summoned via mobile phone or web browser from virtual capsules that are stored in the shared memory of thousands of networked electronic devices of Mission Eternity Angels (people who contribute a small part of their personal storage capacity to the mission, currently 765 of them; to date, 2 volunteers have been accepted for encapsulation).
The data spectres that populate this tenuous memorial space are composed of details of lives lived, in visual, audio and text fragments. But when they are summoned in lo-res pixellated form in the Sarcophagus, they resemble one merged personality. The massing of details that we find in archives and records that keep the dead with us has a similar compositing effect, yet the Sarcophagus is also very unlike those. It gives us access to a novel social world generated among networked computer users who have a common goal of keeping something alive, which can invoke intense feelings such as care and wonder.
Jed Berks’ Autonomous Light Air Vehicles combine many of the themes of artificial life and multi-agent robotics research in an accessible and elegant public presentation. These include capable powered navigation and obstacle avoidance, organized multi-agent behaviour (such as flocking), discernable (quasi) intelligent individual behaviour, and interaction with other (quasi) intelligent agents, i.e., people. Connecting these agendas with more contemporary interest in mobile and locative technologies, Berk has implemented human-ALAV communication via mobile phone technology. The rigors of such a project must not be elided.
While robots in research-lab contexts often exhibit remarkable capabilities, they are just as often delicate, unreliable and require the constant attention of one or several highly trained staff. A project like ALAVs must exhibit its qualities in the general public, must inform and entertain, and at the same time be robust and resilient to the unpredictabilities of unusual architectures and architectural materials, weather, children and crowds (and sometimes, animals) – influences which are almost always filtered out in the controlled environment of the lab.
The ALAVs achieve all this, while remaining lighter than air, an achievement in itself given the weight of batteries and other components. The ALAVs are beguilingly delicate translucent agents which drift and float in a most un-robotic way. Videos
The Hybrid Insect Micro Electro Mechanical Systems project aims to create literal shutterbugs — camera-toting insects whose nerves have grown into their internal silicon chip so that wranglers can control their activities. DARPA researchers are also raising cyborg beetles with power for various instruments to be generated by their muscles. via spatialrobot
This seems to have spread all over the design and architecture blogs. Cloud by Troika is a beautiful object and really superb piece of engineering, especially with its mix of high tech digital control and nostalgic low tech actuation.
There’s a nice video here from youtube and Chris O’Shea has some details on pixelsumo blog which includes some behind the scenes images of the custom software used on the project.