••• Current and coming soon…
•– Creative School with Micro:bits ———————
Recently completed a 10 weeks project in a primary school near Bridgend (UK). The project was part of the ambitious Lead Creative Schools theme run by the Arts Council of Wales, where a ‘creative practitioner’ works with a class for 10 day sessions. I ran a special Wrekshop with a class of 30 pupils 8-9 year old, making sort of robots from e-waste. The e-waste was provided by the school (de-commissioned PCs) and the pupils, who scavenged their homes for old tech bits.
We used the recently released BBC Micro:bits to provide brains for the robots. Micro:bits are small programmable devices (microcontrollers) which can be programmed from a kid-friendly interface. These are good physical computing devices for children to get started. The kids quickly got results, getting the built-in LED matrix to display smileys and scrolling text, plugging a scavenged speaker for beeping melodies, and getting to control DVD trays, PC tower fans and programmable LEDs.
•– Citizen Science #3 ———————
Session 3 of our Citizen Science experiments with creative bio-engineer Michka Melo is planned for May 2017. After an exciting even if slightly frustrating week trying to build supercapacitors from dead laptop batteries (Brussels 2014), we worked on mud-powered microbial fuel cells (Cardiff 2016). For the next session we will focus on making our own electrodes and a collecting circuit for the fuel cells. We hope to generate enough mud-electricity for powering a small interactive device.
The best mud we got was collected near Barry Island, South Wales. The tides from the Severn estuary leave a thick sludgy sediment full of great electrically-charged Shewanella bacteria.
•– Combover Jo on the road again ———————
I am currently upgrading my robotic installation Am I Robot for the States of Play exhibition run by the Craft Council in Hull UK, July-September. Am I Robot features the friendly robot called Combover Jo, wandering around the floor and sometimes keen to talk to visitors.
•– This Machine Could Bite —————————-
The Australian online journal Fibreculture just published a special issue on Creative Robotics. The issue features 8 articles by academics and artists on themes such as creative robots on Mars, non-organic intelligence, working with the most famous humanoid robots, failing robots and more… My contribution to the journal is an article titled This Machine Could Bite, On the Role of Non-Benigh Art Robots. I make a case for experimentation in human-robot interaction with machines not designed for being useful or friendly.
“The social robot’s current and anticipated roles as butler, teacher, receptionist or carer for the elderly share a fundamental anthropocentric bias: they are designed to be benign, to facilitate a transaction that aims to be both useful to and simple for the human. At a time when intelligent machines are becoming a tangible prospect, such a bias does not leave much room for exploring and understanding the ongoing changes affecting the relation between humans and our technological environment. Can art robots – robots invented by artists – offer a non-benign-by-default perspective that opens the field for a machine to express its machinic potential beyond the limits imposed by an anthropocentric and market-driven approach? The paper addresses these questions by considering and contextualising early cybernetic machines, current developments in social robotics, and art robots by the author and other artists.”