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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Virtual Hypergesture

Virtual Hypergesture
  • On September 8, 2020

Hypergesture is a robotic installation made of two robot arms that weave and dance around each other. By choreographing two robotic performers together I hope to recreate the dynamic relationships between human dancers when they perform in duets. Left to their own devices, the two robots dance with each other, either performing by leading/following each other through the space or by swinging/lunging at each other in a fashion that recalls the movement of fighting animals. Through their shifting relationship to each other, the performers embody dynamics of collaboration and conflict and perform in a type of spatial counterpoint.

Besides the relationship between the two performing machines, they can also recreate some of the geometric relationships between parts of a dancer’s body in real time. For example, they can imitate the angle between parts of the body in three dimensions, the facing direction or elevation of a dancer (eg. crouching, standing, on the floor or jumping).

A realtime browser simulation in three.js of the robots being driven by motion capture data from Alexander Whitley’s DigitalBody project is available at:

The robots once constructed will be able to perform the following behaviours (titles are links to videos):

  1. Unison The two robots perform the same motions. The arms are always at the same height but opposite each other.
  2. Symmetry The two robots perform as mirror copies of each other.
  3. Aggression The robots circle each other take turns lunging and avoiding each other. The motion is characterised by the robots trying to maintain a large separation between each other and movement with a fast start.
  4. Leading and Following The robots attempt to keep a minimum distance of separation between each other. Motion recalls partner dancing and one robot leading the movement of another.
  5. Opposition The robots are directly opposite each other. The extremities of the arms form a line to each other. This line can have any rotation in 3 dimensions and can imitate the angle between parts of a dancer’s body.

In the project video, you will see that I have used two excerpts from the dance pieces In Memoriam by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Come Out by Anne Terese De Keersmaeker. Both pieces have a special place in my heart as some of the first pieces of contemporary dance I saw that opened up eyes my eyes to the possibilities of dance.


In Memoriam is included for its tight connection between the two dancers where one leads the other as if connected by puppet strings. De Keersmaeker’s Come Out uses short phrases, repetition and variation to create a tapestry of changing relationships between the two dancers, at times mirroring each other, at times forming a canon where movement is delayed from one dancer to the next. By seating the dancers in identical clothing next to each other, the viewer is constantly comparing the differences and similarities between them and observing them in relation to each other. These types of relationships are what I seek to capture in the Hypergesture project.