I finished running a Wrekshop for kids with a Year 4 class near Bridgend (UK). A typical Wrekshop combines creative taking apart and reconstruction of electronic waste with coding. The kids made sort of robots from electronic waste. For the coding aspect I decided to use the recently released BBC Micro:bits. Micro:bits are small, child-friendly programmable devices developed by the BBC, the University of Lancaster, Microsoft and other partners.
micro:bit in a scrap robot’s “brain socket”
The BBC and partners are aiming to generate an enthusiasm for coding in young people similar to what happened when the original BBC Microcomputer was released in 1981. A generation of British coders learned their skills on this flexible machine (and me 15 years later). Unlike current computers or tablets, the user had to code so as to get the best of the machine’s possibilities.
I used Micropython to finalise the programs for the class, not an ideal solution for the children who were used to the block editor, but the only way so far for including speech in the project. The kids were keen to get their robots to speak.
Unfortunately the Block Editor is only available online, which can be seriously limiting if you have no or slow internet access. For more advanced users I recommend the MU editor, a self-contained, downloadable MicroPython programming environment that works very well.
The crocodile clips connections system, although a good idea, makes it easy to short-circuit the board as the 3 Volts and Ground holes are next to each other. The clips can also easily cross-connect adjacent pins. Most 8 year olds do not find it straightforward to use crocodile clips and several of the boards used in the project have suffered already. Still, with a little care it works fine.
The Australian online journal Fibreculture’s special issue on Creative Robotics is now available! 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.”
Today’s view of the Llandudno promenade, North Wales.
I am here invited by Llawn04 Festival (Llawn = full in Welsh) in their own words:, “The Llandudno Art Weekend – LLAWN – a whole weekend of free events along the Promenade and across various venues and spaces in Llandudno. There’ll be performance, street-games, music, robot-making, dance, visual-art, film and the unexpected all inspired by this year’s theme of Hide/Seek.”
The festival is totally packed with an eclectic collection of engaging events, all free! Do come along with friends and families!
Bobby wearing Tech Head
For regulars to this patchy blog, it will be pretty obvious that I have something to do with the robot-making mentioned in Llawn’s promo blurb. I will run a free Wrekshop on Saturday and Sunday 10:30 to 18:00, open to all people above 7 years of age and not wearing flip flops.
Also on show a short performance for the opening of the festival. Usual suspects robotic ears, bird and Mofo have travelled in their cavernous suitcase and will stretch their circuits in Oriel Mostyn Gallery on Friday at 19:30.
And good old Combover Jo will have a chat with anyone walking down the tube in Oriel Mostyn for the next 3 weeks.
I was doing some software adjustments on my new robot Combover Jo in Manchester Art Gallery today and one of the invigilators told me that the robot was nick-named Donald Trump by the team. I think it is unfair.
As part of The Imitation Game exhibition, I performed with a selection of my little robotic sidekicks in Manchester Art Gallery, Thursday 10th March at 7PM. The show was called:
“Paul Granjon explores the co-evolution of humans and machines with robotic installations such as I Am Robot, presented here, but also with small machines made especially for live performances.
On March 10th he will deliver a performance-lecture including a selection of hand-made machines and cyborg songs, as well as up-to-date views on humans and robots. A one-off chance for visitors to catch up with Granjon and his robotic sidekicks live!”
The gig went well, attended by a nice crowd, the machines almost did not glitch and I possibly sang less off-key than usual. Mofo and Combover Jo made a new young friend, who I wish will live to see a future where humans and friendly artificial creatures share the planet in a totally environmentally responsible and non-profit-driven fashion :>))
Getting ready for The Imitation Game, a group exhibition in Manchester Art Gallery where 8 artists explore the theme of machines and the imitaion of life. More details here.
I was commissioned to make a new robot installation called Am I Robot for the show, still in the finishing stages in my Cardiff studio. I am looking forward to the show the features classic works by Lynn Hershman and Mari Velonaki (pictured), as well as several new pieces by Ed Atkins, Tove Kjellmark, Yu-Chen Wang and more…
The collective of socially engaged architects Assemble won the Turner Prize last night. I am a big fan of their very inclusive “useful art”. They were shortlisted for the Turner Prize for their gentle yet ground-breaking regeneration work in the Granby area of Liverpool.
Check the video about the Granby Workshop, a new social enterprise making handmade products for homes. The workshop is run by local residents. The products are created with hand-made techniques, using some disused building materials and other locally sourced recyclables. Shop online or in their shop in Granby, then sold online or in their local showroom.