Robot

Workshops Autumn 2019

 

 

Doodlebot workshop for kids in Barbican London, 23rd and 24th November, free! Just drop in between 10:00 and 16:00. Part of the Life Rewired season. Anybody aged 7+ can attend and take their Doodlebot home.

 

 

 

Next up in December, a 3 hours upcycling challenge for students in the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University. 11 teams are each given a PC tower to cannibalise and an Arduino to make an interactive module for some corner of the buiding.

 

 

And the seasonal Disobedient Objects project running until Christmas in Cardiff School of Art and Design. Photo below of a 40 minutes task: make a wearable device to defeat face recognition algorithms.

 

Carolin Liebl and Nikolas Schmid-Pfähler residency

 

I have had the pleasure of inviting artists duo Carolin Liebl and Nikolas Schmid-Pfähler for a 3 weeks residency in the FabLab at Cardiff School of Art and Design, as part of the EASTN-DC European research project in digital creativity. Carolin and Nikolas have now returned to their hometown Offenbach, Germany, after 3 weeks  in the FabLab and my studio. They have been busy, started experimenting with the Formlabs 3D printers and 3D scanners. They started by making charging pods for their Sibling robots and printed nature-inspired shapes.

 

They gradually realised that they were not interested so much in printing 3D sculptural forms as they were in inventing their own way of printing objects with plastic, preferably recycled from faulty prints or plastic bottles. They came up with the idea of making a mobile robot that would at times extrude rough plastic shapes in its environment. They started by removing the printhead from a discarded Makerbot Replicator, drilled new holes in the extrusion nozzle and designed a control circuit. After successful testing they put the assembly on a custom mobile chassis with vibrating legs.

 

In parallel they also made from scratch a prototype extruder, a precursor for the printing engine of their larger robot. They got inspiration from the great plastic recycling instructions provided by Precious Plastics. After a couple of days working in the metal shop at CSAD the extruder was ready to go. It is a heated tube inside which an endless screw rotates slowly, pushing melting plastic towards the extruding end. Early tests took place on the last evening of their residency, where the screw spun, the heaters heated and pieces of plastic bottles melted, a promising start!!

 

 

Image above: the first “print” from the extruder, made of recycled PET bottles.

Carolin and Nikolas will continue working on the plastic sculptor robot in their studio, ready for exhibition for the Cardiff EASTN-DC Festival in March 2021. We are really looking forward to see them back with their robot!

AI has been delayed

A quick note on a recent post by AI and robotics expert Rodney Brooks, from his blog largely focused on misconceptions about AI and its imminent takeover. The post dated May 17th 2019 is titled AGI has been delayed (A-rtificial G-eneral I-ntelligence). Brooks looks into the state of the art technology of autonomous cars and, informed by these observations, predicts that AGI, an artificial intelligence with the same versatility and adaptability as a human intelligence will not occur before 2300.

 

 

Brooks writes a short paragraph about the dangers of AI that rings very true with some of my current concerns:

“what does [the fact that autonomous cars are not to be around for another few decades]  say about predictions that AGI is just around the corner? And what does it say about it being an existential threat to humanity any time soon. We have plenty of existential threats to humanity lining up to bash us in the short term, including climate change, plastics in the oceans, and a demographic inversion. If AGI is a long way off then we can not say anything sensible today about what promises or threats it might provide as we need to completely re-engineer our world long before it shows up, and if when it does show up it will be in a world that we can not yet predict.”

 

 

We are the robots 1978

This is the original in German, “Wir sind die roboter”. A nice bit of vintage pop video by Kraftwerk. Love the LED ties, still geeky cool 40 years on!!

Spot Mini robot dance

Boston Dynamics gets into the groove with this video of their Spot Mini quadruped, including some anthropomorphic robosexy moves that might tickle some public.

 

Another Spot Mini video, this one got more than 5 million hits since February. It is more in the Boston Dynamics tradition with a Skynet-like machine behaviour and robot abuse moments. 16000+ comments, largely about the themes mentioned above.

And The Things We Do… exhibition

After a frantic lead-up to the opening of the exhibition And The Things We Do in Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao Spain, 11 Mudbots are pushing clay balls, largely helped by humans cranking them up.

 

 

The exhibition comprises a nice selection of robotic artworks by Carolin Liebl and Nicolas Schmid-Pfähler, Mari Velonaki, Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, Robotlab, David Bowen as well as my good old friend Combover Jo, speaking Spanish for the occasion. The exhibition runs until 16 September 2018.

 

Introduction by the curators Rosa Casado and Mike Brooks: “The exhibition brings together a selection of major and influential contemporary artworks from within the fields of social robotics, bio electronics and artificial intelligence, that will together inhabit Azkuna Zentroa’s gallery, to create an evolving ecology of interactive and adaptably performative machines. With the artists who have worked with us over the past year to realise this collective of works, we have focused on how these strangely familiar yet extraordinary robots – through their behaviours, and their endeavours to adapt and function within their environment – might both reflect and respond to our own choices and experiences. Perhaps our meetings with them might open new perspectives onto the things we ourselves choose to do and not do, to make and not make happen, as together we navigate and shape the shared spaces we live in.”

 

Robots de barro coming soon in Bilbao

Nice day in Bilbao, Spain, a preparation trip for the Prototipoak exhibition who commissioned a new robotic installation featuring Mudbots – robots de barro.

Collected mud today in the Zorrozaure island, that used to be a very active industrial hub. Heavy metal doped bacteria…

 

Electronic Wildertrees in Moscow

December 2017. The Garage contemporary arts centre invited me to wrek Russian e-waste with local participants and build some post-apocalypse trees as part of their 8th Art Experiment season. This year the theme was Laboratories of Earthly Survival. Curator Snejana Kratseva says:

 

“Each winter, Garage transforms its galleries into an experimental laboratory for art. Visitors of all ages are invited to participate in hands-on experiences with artists, as well as innovative creative collaborations between peers. Art Experiment is the flagship initiative of Garage Education and Public Programs and attracts students, parents, local residents, and Moscow visitors.

This year will be the eighth annual interactive initiative, focusing on science art and survival ethics. It will consist of hands-on experiments in “hacking” life sciences and equipping participants with skills in agricultural, biological, genetic as well as robo engineering, preparing kids and adults for an imaginary future after the world ended, cultivating a future generation of home-grown brand of “garage scientists” who will be able to not only to generate new inventions with low-fi materials but do so evaluating one’s ethical values with every new discovery.”

 

I knew there was little hope to get some exotic soviet era e-waste, and I was right. We got lots of Hewlett-Packard PCs, a crate of early 2000s Panasonic cameras and various other familiar consumer electronics items.

 

 

 

Other artists in the show were Anastasia Potemkina with an hydroponics installation for growing resilient, apocalypse resistant plants such as nettles, and the collective Where Dogs Run who had 20 odd live chicks providing the data for a vintage slide show and a great-looking electronic sculpture based on Dante’s inferno.

Art Experiment, Laboratories of Earthly Survival ran from December 19th 2017 to January 8th 2018.

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