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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Performing SCARA Robots

Can industrial robots perform elegant and improvisational choreography? Yes! I’ve been looking specifically at SCARA robot mechanisms and exploring the relationship between SCARA’s motion and contemporary dance in space during studies at IALab.

The acronym SCARA stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. The first SCARA robot was created as a revolutionary prototype in 1978, in the laboratory of Professor Hiroshi Makino, at Yamanashi University in Japan. Its arm was rigid in the Z-axis and pliable in the XY-axes. The SCARA arm behaves somewhat like the human arm in that joints allow the arm to extend into confined area and then retract to “fold up” out of the way.

The first prototype of the SCARA, Hiroshi Makino

The first prototype of the SCARA, Hiroshi Makino

Cod.Act turned SCARA robot into a fascinating sound sculpture, Cycloid-E. To increase the diversity of the movement and obtain an object with more visual attractiveness, Cod.Act linked number of hollow aluminium segment with each other so that they would move in the same plane, emitting sound which is directly related to its speed and its position, but also in relation to the state of unfolding of then whole structure.

Cycloid, Cod.Act

Cycloid-E, Cod.Act

Movement of Cycloid-E is powered by a central engine. Random impulsions given by the engine and the quick transfer of kinetic energy between the different segments of the arm cause fascinatingly unforeseeable motion.


How could SCARA robot improves with dancer? Industrial Improvisation project done by Chryssa Varna, a member of IALab, explores the interaction between industrial robot and dancer. She designed a combination of pre-choreographed and improvised performances to form a gestural dialog between a dancer and two robotic performers, and achieved an emerging set of movements that construct an unpredictable and evolving choreography.


Since dancer may interact with intelligent SCARA dancer through physical touch, safety of dancer must be one of the main concerns. My further research on SCARA shall focus on how to make it lightweight and exquisite, and how to control the speed of rotation of each arm.

Joint of my first prototype of SCARA arm

Joint of my first prototype of SCARA arm

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