This piece is a collaborative effort between Lina Pulgarin and Zaria Howard. Although both team members worked together to create the same structure, they had two separate performative visions which will be detailed below.
The project was exploring two concepts: (1) how can we manipulate objects without replicating a hand and (2) creating something that hinders its own purpose. With chopstick-like prongs the robot would be given pieces of clay by an audience to construct a nest/wall around itself. This wall would eventually prevent it from further receiving more clay. When the audience isn’t close the robot it appears inoffensive, two pieces of wood floating above the floor.
We had a long sketching and designing process that led to a short construction period. Due to this we settled on a quick open beam structure in order to focus on the chopsticks and their movement. This led to a robot that was rugged appearance of the robot which went well with it’s ultimate personality. The placing of the camera sensor meant that in order to interact with the robot you had to get close to it and have a personal interaction with it. Then as the audience approaches it, quick, smooth and stealthy movements turn it into something menacing. When the chopsticks moved it felt like it could attack you. It was untamed, constructed wild.
The most noticeable design choice was how our robot hung from the roof. While there was no concrete design choice for this, besides being aesthetically pleasing, it ended up enhancing the personality of our robot. The robot was was floating above the audience as a bird would. For the programming of the robot I used the CNC Shield with a server written by Garth Zeglin and added my own code to it using OpenCV. The chopsticks were wooden due to my desire to make them out of a rudimentary and unpolished material. This lent to the robot's initial inoffensive quality.
The purpose of creating this project was to create something that changed the environment that the user was in. However instead of changing the room, I thought that by implanting this object into the room it would completely transform how the viewer sees the space. The huge question in this project was how do you make one compact object have the presence of the entire room. To address this I introduced spatial sensing - I gave the object a sense of personal space. I gave it the ability to react in a variety of ways depending on how close a viewer was to the object and how close a viewer was to another user. It creates a reaction no matter where a viewer is in the space, therefore affecting the viewer's environment. I wanted to thoroughly explore the idea of being to close to someone or something and what that means because often times without enough personal space, humans are the ones that get surprisingly animate.
The project was successful because it reacted in ways that one might expect it to react within certain boundaries of personal space. On the grand scale it did what it was supposed to do which was sense viewers through the Microsoft Kinect Sensor and respond to them accordingly. When a user interacts with the object there is enough variety to sustain interest but enough repetition and pattern for the viewer to form a relationship with the object and that is one aspect of it that really excites me. I think the character building of the robot could have been improved. Although the gestures and movements of the robot have certain implications, the aesthetic of the robot and possibly the acrylic extensions used could have been designed to create a unique character beyond the archetypal robot. This could have been improved with more exposure to how robots are integrated into dramatic and artistic practices. The story created with the robot was ideal for me because my original vision was like a ballet but instead of dancers, me and this robot. To that effect I think it was successful, I created an object that moved with me but also against me.
So one thing that I felt was key to integrating the object into the environment was placing it onto the ceiling. The fixed structure was now created to be as much a part of the room as a wall. This was achieved by using open beams and screwing them into the beams on the ceiling. The laser cutter was used to create the majority of pieces that supported the system's orientation (being hung from the ceiling). Additionally we wanted to design this structure so that it would have as much of a full range of motion as it could get. Design-wise this was achieved by programming motors that give it 360 degree rotation about the z-axis and 2 other motors that give it 360 degree rotation about the x and y axis. This allowed motions to be programmed as dramatic or subtle as necessary to convey the robot's perception of personal space. Software was the biggest challenge. The integration between Arduino's use of serial and Cycling 64 Max software is what allowed for the most freedom in synchronizing lighting, sound, and the movement of the physical robot to create a cohesive performance. Once these programs were integrated, the environment as well as the robot integrated into the environment was able to respond to Kinect Sensor Data to create responses from LEDs and the implemented surround sound to create a more drama surrounding the object's spatial responses.
This project is an exploration of how the concept of personal space can exist outside the realm of the person and more specifically exist within physical objects.