chris.hamby + robots   11

Nomadic Plants
Vegetation and microorganisms live symbiotically inside the body of this robot. The robot draws water from a contaminated river, decomposes its elements, helps to create energy to feed its brain circuits and the surplus is then used to create life, enabling plants to fulfill their own life cycle continue
LABoral  bio  bioart  green  robots  from google
april 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Robots - The Old Robots Web Site
Really great collection
Would also be a good addition to the MoOM
reference  technology  inspiration  collections  robots  toys  robot  gallery 
september 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Interview with Tobie Kerridge (Material Beliefs)
Material Beliefs is a group of designers based in London. They might create pieces of furniture and accessories but they are not your usual tables and cups. The result of a close collaboration with scientists and engineers, social scientists but also members of the public, their projects take emerging biomedical and cybernetic technology out of labs and into public space. The members of Material Beliefs use design as a tool for public engagement, a mean to stimulate discussion about the value and impact of new technologies which blur the boundaries between our bodies and materials.

Each of the prototypes they develop is the starting point of a fruitful and much needed debate in public space about the relationship between science and society.

Fly-paper robotic clock © Auger-Loizeau 2008

Lampshade robot © Auger-Loizeau 2008

Their prototypes are questionable and puzzling. They include a series of extremely cruel and useful Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots (think moth-eating lamps and a robotic coffee table that doubles as a mouse trap) and pastel pink or baby blue Vital Signs monitors (a product of the child surveillance industry, they enable data about the body to be communicated across a mobile phone network.) You can encounter them in venues as different as the Dana Centre in London and LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijon, Spain.

At the heart of Material Beliefs are Andy Robinson, Elio Caccavale, Tobie Kerridge, Jimmy Loizeau (with James Auger) and Susana Soares, supported by collaborations with Aleksandar Zivanovic, Julian Vincent, Kevin Warwick, Slawomir Nasuto, Ben Whalley, Mark Hammond, Julia Downes, Dimitris Xyda, David Muth, Tony Cass, Olive Murphy, Nick Oliver, Dianne Ford, Luisa Wakeling, Julie Daniels and Anna Harris.

My victim for this interview is designer Tobie Kerridge whom i wanted to talk with ever since i read about about a project he conceived than actually prototyped together with scientist Ian Thompson and designer Nikki Stott: Biojewellery. The project catapults traditional engagement and wedding rings into the world of tissue engineering and biotechnology research by using bone tissue cultured from human cells in order to create bespoke jewellery.

Tobie at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Imperial College

I must admit that i almost regretted to have asked you this interview. While preparing it, i had a long look through the website of Material Beliefs and found it so complete and so well documented that i felt that there was nothing left for me to ask you. I then had the idea of doing a 'designboom style' interview where the designer is asked all sorts of apparently frivolous questions. So now the idea has become irresistible and here's a question i stole from designboom: I assume you notice how women dress. Do you have any preferences?

Vital Signs monitors © Tobie Kerridge 2008

Vital Signs scenario © Tobie Kerridge 2008

Then I'm going to be cheeky and and steal someone's answer, Inga Sempé's was nice - "no".

I like the name of the project, Material Beliefs, a lot. Where does it come from and which kind of ideas do you want it to convey?

Ah, this is a long story, and it also shows a lack of imagination under pressure. I was writing the funding proposal for Material Beliefs with Savita Custead, and we had to get the thing submitted. Being a bit stuck for names, the project title came about by co-joining the titles of two beloved projects.

One is Materials Library, run by Mark Miodownik, Zoe Laughlin and Martin Conreen. They operate an archive of materials, and take these artefacts into public spaces by staging performative events. They convened a series at the Tate, and then followed on with events at the Wellcome Collection themed around Flesh and one coming up soon will focus on Hair. Their obsessions create new communities that play across disciplines.

The other was a proposal for funding to the ECRC by Robert Doubleday, Mark Welland, James Wilsdon and Brian Wynne called "Material Imaginations". Their proposal followed on from a project I first read about in See Through Science, a report by DEMOS. Doubleday set up an ethnographic project in Welland's Nanotechnology lab, the aim being to work with scientists to imagine the social outcomes of their nanotechnology research. He said "My role is to help imagine what the social dimensions might be, even though the eventual applications of the science aren't yet clear". This made me think about the role of design as a set of speculative tools for working with science and engineering.

I was a student of Durrell Bishop, Tony Dunne, Bill Gaver, Fiona Raby, and other fine tutors at what's now the Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art. In this context, my practice emerged through an interrogation of design methods and aims. Material Beliefs is an attempt to make design's association with science and technology more embedded. It takes influence from Doubleday's - and previously Bruno Latour's and Steve Woolgars - encampment in labs. The difference is that the role of that occupation is more than analytical, it attempts to synthesise outcomes - what happens when speculative attitudes to science and technology get located at the site of laboratory research? Well not much sometimes, but other times it works out and you get a fascinating and messy shared practice. Designers and Scientists/Engineers also have to work harder to understand each others roles and offer respect and support - it's difficult and rewarding.

Building fly-eating robots at the Royal Institution of Great Britain

The other aspect is that these collaborations take place in public as much as possible. Taking inspiration from Miodownik, Laughlin and Conreen, it's about doing the work in front of and with audiences. These are not only the audiences you might find at art or design exhibitions. Sometimes the model of public engagement is not top-down, but about getting people into labs and enabling them to do new stuff - making enquiries, building their own prototypes, asking researchers about the ethics of technology, finding out how funding is awarded.

Here design becomes a tool for translating academic knowledge into resources for independent enquiry, and a way of enabling others to access technology. This can be tricky as you have to sneak people into labs, under the radar of public relations departments who might not see the value of access for groups that wont promote the research in a straightforward way. This is not a criticism, it just that some institutions are not yet set up for challenging forms of public engagement. This situation I think is aggravated by an institutional anxiety about campaigning groups, but that is another story.

Finally, when I first Googled "Material Beliefs" it was all about religious practices, and it seemed appropriate, seeing as we were going to be doing so much preaching.


Neuroscope Prototype © Elio Caccavale 2008

Material Beliefs looks like a unique structure. I suspect that many artists and designers would dream of engaging with emerging biomedical and cybernetic technology in close cooperation with engineers and social scientists. Which kind of advice would you give to artists or designers who might want to set up a design lab like yours? How did you manage to get the ear (and funding) of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in England?

It's a good time to extend design practices that ask questions about our relationship with technology and science. In the UK at least, there is an ongoing discussion about how public engagement of science should be done. This is a discussion at a policy level, about democratising access to the research that will have its outcomes in the products and services we use. So while public engagement of science used to be about persuading the public that science produced a benefit, or where it was a strategy for encouraging a new generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians to keep the nation competitive, it is now also about looking for new ways to involve different groups of people in science. These discussions then filter down into decisions about how funding is awarded. I think Material Beliefs probably benefited from new attitudes about what public engagement of science is allowed to be.

We set out to say that design lets non-specialists respond to science in creative ways, to make their own things out of their curiosities with bioengineering, and to have an active role within the production of research, or at least to play a role in the discussion of what unfinished research might come to mean. Rather than be told that this or that technology is not really risky, or at best being invited into a conversation that decides if a technology is risky, publics can actually have some kind of active role in how technology encountered. That's what design can do, it encourages an active orientation towards materials and processes, it provides a reason to try to do something, rather than sit back passively, then point your finger out of anxiety, for example over the potential effects of biotechnological products and services that suddenly appear on the market - "Where did that come from? Frankenfoods messing up my body, I am even angrier now!". The fact is that science is complex, it is enacted through a relationship between peers and rivals, institutions, markets, funders, politicians, ethics committees. Rather than ignore that, or treat science as monolithic entity, why not try to situate a practice productively somewhere amongst this fascinating network? Material Beliefs is only starting to think about this extended role for design, others have been doing it for some time, and I'm thinking of Natalie Jeremijenko's practice, Symbiotica's lab in Perth, and the thinking that has informed the Design Interactions course.


Group from the Roundhouse interviewing researchers about cyborgs

More generally, how do scientists react to your interests and works? Are they … [more]
bio  design  interview  labs  robots  science  from google
november 2008 by Chris.Hamby
Autonomously Schooling Robofish Will Become Cylons of the Sea [Robofish]
One day in the near future, when humanity has killed off all the fish in the sea, we'll be able to replace every single on of them using the research of University of Washington UW assistant professor Kristi Morgansen. That's because Morgansen, with her 10,000-gallon UW test tank, has almost perfected an autonomous robofish, which needs only other robofish and a basic set of commands to operate wirelessly underwater. They'll be Cylons of the Sea. Like tuna, with nukes.

Morgansen designed the robofish to explore the deepest depths of the ocean, as well as seek out other locations where the environment is deadly to human beings. They'll do this all without any intervention from people, other robots or even satellites. The group would perform just like an organic fish and form a school, with dominant personalities leading the way even if certain robofish received incomplete or garbled instructions.

"In schooling and herding animals, you can get much more efficient maneuvers and smoother behaviors than what we can do in engineering right now," Morgansen said. "The idea of these experiments [with schools of live fish] is to ask, 'How are they doing it?' and see if we can come up with some ideas."

Schooling also helps fight the effects of water on wireless communication. Optimal underwater data transfer rates are approximately 80 bytes, or about 32 numbers, per second, but the robofishes' simple two-command memory structure (swimming in the same direction or swimming in different directions) mean tasks get done anyway. The robots use fins and a tail, instead of a propeller, because they're more maneuverable and create lower drag. [University of Washington]
Cylons  Fish  Fish_schools  Kristi_Morgansen  Ocean  Oceanography  Robot_fish  Robots  University_of_Washington  uw  from google
june 2008 by Chris.Hamby
ASIMO to Conduct Yo-Yo Ma and Detroit Symphony Orchestra [Robots]
It looks like there's no end to ASIMO's skills: the smart, cute robot will pick up the baton and conduct cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on May 13th. A robot conducting an orchestra? That's pretty amazing, we think. Honda's ASIMO and the 15-times Grammy winner musician will be performing a piece titled "Impossible Dream" to draw attention to the orchestra's nationally acclaimed music programs for Detroit youngsters. And the following day ASIMO will be doing a show for hundreds of school kids, and Yo-Yo will be leading a masterclass. We're just glad stepping up to the podium won't be a problem for ASIMO these days. [Akihabaranews]
Asimo  Conductor  Detroit_Symphony_Orchestra  DSO  Gadgets  Honda  honda_asimo  Music  Robots  yo_yo_ma  from google
april 2008 by Chris.Hamby

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