Assemble wins Turner Prize

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.

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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.

Eppur si Muove exhibition

Last week the exhibition Eppur Si Muove opened in MUDAM museum, Luxemburg. Lots of good stuff in there. The exhibition is a combination of historical scientific and technical artefacts from Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris and contemporary artworks related to similar techniques and science. Until February 2016.

 

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The exhibition features many excellent works, including Tinguely’s Fata Morgana, Eliasson’s Trust Compass, Kowalski’s Arc en Ciel, Stelarc’s Third Hand and many more. My own Smartbot has been uncrated for living another segment of its limited existence on one square metre.

The MUDAM commissioned me and a team of artists, engineers and business students from Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France, to develop a robot guide for Eppur Si Muove. Guido the Robot Guide started its visits the day after the opening. There is a fair bit of work to be done before it can take over the human guides (phew) but Guido is popular with visitors, especially young ones. It talks about a selection of artworks and inventions from a robotic perspective, only in French for the moment. Two engineering students are working on Guido’s navigation and telepresence until end August.

 

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RIP Chris Burden

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I just found out today that Chris Burden died on 10th May, aged 69.

Infamous for deliberately shocking masochistic performances in the 1970s, he went on to make great sculptures and installations. Among my favourites is Big Wheel (1979). Combining a 1.7 tons steel flywheel and a small italian motorcyle, it evokes weight, energy, transport, risk in a spectacular kinetic-static performance sculpture. The simplicity of means, the scale, the engineering and the danger are typical of Burden’s best work unique impact.

Respect.

New Museum_2013_Chris Burden_Benoit Pailley


Burden’s famous performance SHOOT! (1971).

 

Robotics Challenge falls video compilation

Day 1 of Darpa robotics challenge

IEEE posted this video shot today on the obstacle course, many robots bit the dust. Most of them got back on track despite the nasty-looking falls.
Humanoid robots sure have a long way to go. Yet, I just spent a while watching the live feed and it is impressive what these things can do. Even if it the actions feel excruciatingly slow at times, the task gets completed most times.

Robotics Challenge poster babes

I mentioned last week some original lab testing devices for some robots that will compete in Darpa’s Robotics Challenge tomorrow and Saturday. Well, here they are (most them anyway) in this pure robot geek poster published by the robotics branch of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

Darpa Robotics Challenge finalist, June 2015

An interesting selection of cutting edge humanoid and semi-humanoid designs, ready to bite the dust of Fairplex, California. There even is a Chappie lookalike!

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A winner will be crowned on Saturday.

Low-tech testing tools for high-tech robots

Darpa robotics challenge (DRC)

Well known for funding all sorts of military-oriented sci-tech projects in the USA, Darpa (Defense advanced projects research agency) is just about to launch the grand final of their robotics challenge. Twenty-five of the top robotics organizations in the world will gather to compete for $3.5 million in prizes as they attempt a simulated disaster-response course.

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I was not too impressed by the semi-finals in December 2013. I actually use a video of the Schaft S-One robot climbing a ladder to illustrate how far humanoid robots are from anything vaguely similar to old school Terminator or Ava from the recent Ex-Machina movie.

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Anyways, this post is a total side line: I had a look at videos of teams getting ready, working on balancing their robot (they are not allowed to assist the robot if it falls during the contest). I love the lo-tech tools built by the teams to push and prod the robots (a tradition started with the infamous video of Boston Dynamics Big Dog being kicked in 2008).

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DRC teams develop a somehow re-assuring ad-hocist approach that strongly contrasts with the titanium and silicon aesthetics of the machines.

Case A: MIT, pushing Atlas robot in the groin with an ominous looking cardboard tube

Case B: much more creative, research dudes in Virginia Tech have built a contraption that combines a broom handle and a child’s shoe. A clever design that allows pushing AND pulling!

If you liked the videos and you happen to be in Pomona, California on June 5th and 6th, check it out, entry is free! A unique opportunity to spot the next step in evolution (but you might not get to see the pushing tools).

From IEEE robotics spectrum

Wrekshop controller

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After several Wrekshops where we spent too much time building the interface for the creative down-cycling of e-waste items, I have finally found the time to build a general purpose Wrekshop controller. It features an Arduino Mega microcontroller, a recycled 400W PC power supply, three L298 dual channel motor controllers, an 8-digital outputs L2803 darlington array and a fast connecting system giving access to additional digital I/O, analog inputs, I2C and serial ports.

The Wrekshop controller was debugged and tested during the Blast Wrekshop in April 2015.


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Blast Wrekshop

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I was invited by Blast (Bournemouth laboratory for arts science and technology) to run a Wrekshop as part of their guest artists workshops seasons. In good company there, after Anna Dumitriu and Brandon Ballangée. I had been thinking for a while about how to boost the Wrekshop format (informed deconstruction and creative reconstruction of e-waste). I finally found the time to build a Wrekshop controller box, a sort of general purpose programmable device with easy connection and built-in functionalities. More details here.

The Wrekshop was attended by a gender-balanced group of mostly artists. They all-but-one built functional (if not useful) items to be connected to the controller. The results will be included in the final exhibition of the Blast projects alongside all the other things that were built. This should be an interesting show, planned for June.

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I also presented a lecture on the latest of my practice and thinking on the Co-evolution of humans and machines. The not fully uplifting aspects such as superintelligence and Algorithmic regulation were compensated by funny old classics such as the Cybernetic Parrot Sausage video.

Gdansk Man|Machine Workshops

I just came back from running a Man|Machine workshop organised by Laznia Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gdansk, Poland, 17th to 23rd November 2014.

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“The Man|Machine workshops will concentrate on the creation of robots as works of art. The workshops are meant to enhance interdisciplinary attitudes among young artists, engineers and designers. They open to all audiences, with a special focus on students of art academies and technical universities from Poland and Norway. They will be lead by three robotic artists. The participants will form interdisciplinary teams, each of which shall create at least one robot under the supervision of a chosen artist.”

I lead one of the groups. The other artists were Jim Bond (UK) and Anders Eiebakke (Norway).

We worked for 6 days in a technopark in Gdynia and created a thing out of arduinos and Polish electronic waste. The students called it “Sasza – the love machine’. It has heart that moves and beats, a mouth made of felt that comes to kiss people who touch Sasza’a hands, and two excitable vibrating pets. Sasza will be exhibited in May in Laznia Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gdansk, then in Oslo in September.

 

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