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Über dieses Buch

The first compendium on robotic art of its kind, this book explores the integration of robots into human society and our attitudes, fears and hopes in a world shared with autonomous machines. It raises questions about the benefits, risks and ethics of the transformative changes to society that are the consequence of robots taking on new roles alongside humans. It takes the reader on a journey into the world of the strange, the beautiful, the uncanny and the daring – and into the minds and works of some of the world’s most prolific creators of robotic art.

Offering an in-depth look at robotic art from the viewpoints of artists, engineers and scientists, it presents outstanding works of contemporary robotic art and brings together for the first time some of the most influential artists in this area in the last three decades. Starting from a historical review, this transdisciplinary work explores the nexus between robotic research and the arts and examines the diversity of robotic art, the encounter with robotic otherness, machine embodiment and human–robot interaction. Stories of difficulties, pitfalls and successes are recalled, characterising the multifaceted collaborations across the diverse disciplines required to create robotic art.

Although the book is primarily targeted towards researchers, artists and students in robotics, computer science and the arts, its accessible style appeals to anyone intrigued by robots and the arts.





Engineering the Arts

This book is a result of chance encounters, random discussions and a colluding collaboration between an engineer, a scientist and an artist. From the onset, the interdisciplinary nature has set us on a colliding course of ideas, expectations and interests. While interdisciplinary research is celebrated en masse by funding agencies, government bodies and the academia, researchers who embrace interdisciplinarity live a distinctly strenuous life with little recognition for their efforts that appear to fall into the chasm between the established norms and practices of the constituent disciplines. Here, we anecdotally backtrack our journey through the years, homage to the individuals who assume flexible identities, seeking out adventures beyond the confinements of their chosen field.

Damith Herath, Christian Kroos

The Art in the Machine

Here the major themes that arise in the twenty-one chapters of this book are introduced and discussed within the framework of how robotic art relates to the general public and how it interconnects with science and engineering.

Christian Kroos

Then and Now


We Have Always Been Robots: The History of Robots and Art

Although the “robot” is a twentieth century concept, machines that conform to the same definition—are capable of carrying out complex actions automatically—are part of a much longer history. This chapter will provide an overview of this history. It will trace the contemporary emergence of the robot back to the appearance of clockwork and mechanical automata in the early modern period. In so doing, the chapter will make two key contributions to this book’s study of robots and art. Firstly, it will argue that the concept of a robot predates the emergence of the word robot by several centuries, and that our understanding of the contemporary concept is enriched by recognition of this longer history. Secondly, it will show that, from its very inception, the history of robots has been closely entwined with that of art—evident not least in the fact the term itself derives from the context of theatre. This history continues to be reflexively present in contemporary performance.

Elizabeth Stephens, Tara Heffernan

Robotics and Art, Computationalism and Embodiment

Robotic Art and related practices provide a context in which real-time computational technologies and techniques are deployed for cultural purposes. This practice brings the embodied experientiality, so central to art hard up against the tacit commitment to abstract disembodiment inherent in the computational technologies. In this essay I explore the relevance of post-cognitivist thought to robotics in general, and in particular, questions of materiality and embodiment with respect to robotic art practice—addressing philosophical, aesthetic-theoretical and technical issues.

Simon Penny

Robotics: Hephaestus Does It Again

After browsing through half a century of robotics research, the chapter emphasizes on motion autonomy as the key attribute of robots. The presentation follows a guiding thread inspired by an ancient myth accounting for the universally debated relationship between science and technology. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was a talented craftsman. Enamoured with Athena, he attempted to seduce her, in vain. The goddess of “knowing” withstood the advances of the god of “doing”. Robotics stems from this tension. Although the myth contradicts a current tendency to confuse science and technology, it nevertheless reflects the experience of the author as a roboticist.

Jean-Paul Laumond



Embracing Interdependencies: Machines, Humans and Non-humans

As a creator of interactive, constructed ecosystems, I discuss my artistic practice as a way to experience self as interdependent and to re-engineer relationships between humans and other species. Technologically enhanced mirroring, participation, re-programmed elements and designing for non-humans are examined as techniques that entangle the audience within the fabricated systems. Re-configuring the human participant as one element enmeshed within a system that equally includes technology, industry, waste streams and other living things, I work towards new models of collaboration and shared world building.

Amy M. Youngs

Trans-Species Interfaces: A Manifesto for Symbiogenisis

Artist/inventor Ken Rinaldo looks to natural living systems, mimesis and communication to reveal the underlying coevolved wisdom of the biological world as it intertwines and coevolves with our technological world. He postulates the symbiotic junctures where machine, animal, plant, bacteria and humans meet are where our future as a species exist. He reveals this philosophy by showing numerous interactive robotic installations showing how we are becoming symbiont and his works pioneer interspecies communication, where the biological and technological naturally intertwine. Using coevolution as model, Rinaldo proposes we can, as a species design technologies that are more sensitive to other living things focused on directing technology for the good of all living species, we share the planet with.

Ken Rinaldo

Cultivating the Uncanny: The Telegarden and Other Oddities

The concept of the Uncanny has attracted the attention of art critics and scholars for over a century. Freud’s 1919 essay The Uncanny considers objects and other phenomena that evoke a powerful psychological response of fear and fascination. Freud links the human experience of the Uncanny—essentially an awareness of awareness—to repressed fears and desires. The Uncanny Valley—a related but distinct concept—was proposed by Masahiro Mori in 1970 concerning the design of robots and prosthetics. This chapter explores the Freudian and Morian concepts of the Uncanny and their influence on artists working with robots. We identify two categories: the representational uncanny is triggered by objects that look lifelike, and the experiential uncanny is triggered by non-anthropomorphic phenomena that behave in ways that signal awareness. We focus on the latter in our examination of three artworks—The Telegarden (1995), Six Robots Named Paul (2012), and The Blind Robot (2013)—which create a heightened atmosphere of awareness and challenge assumptions about authenticity and agency.

Elizabeth Jochum, Ken Goldberg

The Potential of Otherness in Robotic Art

This chapter compares and contrasts the creation of humanoid robots with that of non-humanoid robots, identifying assumptions about communication that underlie the designs and employing a range of communication theories to analyse people’s interactions with the robots. While robots created in science and technology laboratories to communicate with humans are most often at least somewhat humanlike in form, those created as part of interactive art installations take a variety of forms. The creation of humanoid robots can be linked with ideas about communication that valorise commonality above all else, whereas robotic artworks illustrate the potential of otherness in interactions between humans and non-humanoid robots.

Eleanor Sandry

Being One, Being Many

If the current development of robotics indicates its future, we will be soon able to create robots that are exactly identical, intentional agents—at least as far as their software is concerned. This raises questions about identity as sameness and identity in the sense of individuality/subjectivity. How will we treat a robotic agent that is precisely the same as multiple others once it left its inanimate appearance behind and by its intentionality claims to be individual and subjective? In this chapter we show how these issues emerged in the implementation of the artwork ‘The Swarming Heads’ by Stelarc.

Christian Kroos, Damith Herath



Way of the Jitterbug

Norman White retraces a long, convoluted mental journey which started with a childhood love for fishing. College courses in Biology, exposure to the work of jazz pianist Lenny Tristano, a by-chance job wiring up a telephone switchboard, travel in the Middle East, and attendance at early club gigs by Pink Floyd all conspired to set him on the path of artistic experimentation using electronics. After an initial period of building “light machines”, he turned to creating interactive physical devices that have “lives of their own”, wherein programmed instructions and cycles process and respond to sensory data gathered from chaotic environments, thus giving them surprising and unpredictable behaviors.

Norman T. White

Still and Useless: The Ultimate Automaton

Robots descend from the long genealogy of automata, machines with no practical purposes essentially meant to simulate objects embedded with an anima. Our hypothesis is that the thrust for the creation of every robot is rooted in the primordial myth of infusing inanimate matter with the breath of life: the aim of any automaton is to become a living thing. The ultimate automaton does not need to move or to do anything: the essence of any robot lies in the desire to simulate life to the point where it actually becomes alive. This chapter presents the Aerostabile research-creation program, which progressively evolved from an architectural origin to a research platform for exploring the nature of the elements that maximizes this deliberately created illusion. It goes through the origins and main methodologies of the program, then describes several artworks that were created along its evolution, focusing on the notion of behaviour and observed interactivity.

Nicolas Reeves, David St-Onge

Machines That Make Art

Robots can make art. Based on simple rules and stigmergy it is possible to produce unique artworks that are at least partially independent from the human that triggers the process. I have coined it a “New kind of Art”.

Leonel Moura



The Multiple Bodies of a Machine Performer

This chapter examines the potentials arising from the embodiment of Machine Performers. Thru an analysis of a robotic reappropriation of the early 20th century dance ensemble named The Tiller Girls, I argue that alternate views of the body further the concept of embodiment as currently seen by artificial intelligence. The chapter first compares embodiment from the biological to the social and cultural. Second, it analyses the passage of a walking robot, nicknamed Stumpy, from the AI lab to the stage. It describes how the historical body of the Tiller Girls shifts the perception of audiences and how such inherited competence contributes to the interpretive skills of a machine. I discuss on intrinsic characteristics that make them perform as opposed to solely function. Finally, by shifting this scientific investigation on gaits towards the perception and reception of robot movements, I am exploring audience mechanisms of empathy and identification towards those non-human performers.

Louis-Philippe Demers

Bio-engineered Brains and Robotic Bodies: From Embodiment to Self-portraiture

Guy Ben-Ary is an artist and researcher at SymbioticA: the Centre for Excellence in Biological Arts, at the University of Western Australia since 2001. The biological laboratory is his studio, and tissue engineering, electrophysiology, and other biological techniques are his artistic mediums. His work explores a number of fundamental themes that underpin the intersection between art and science; namely life and death, cybernetics, and artificial life. This paper examines the methodologies and theories that underpin his artistic practice by using four major projects as examples: MEART, Silent Barrage, In-Potentia, and cellF, with discussion of terminology, ethics and the idea of robotic embodiment as an artistic strategy.

Guy Ben-Ary, Gemma Ben-Ary

Android Robots as In-between Beings

The Geminoid is an android robot based on an existing person and it can act as an avatar of the original person using a teleoperation system. The Telenoid is another android which is characterized by implementing a minimal design representation of a human. By this design, the Telenoid allows people to feel as if a spatially distant acquaintance is close-by. We created two artworks with the Geminoid through collaborations with artists. Firstly, we conceived the Android Theater. In Android Theatre human actors and androids shared the stage in a first play of its kind worldwide. The second work is an “Intelligent Mannequin”. Here the Geminoid was interacting with the visitors in a department store as an interactive mannequin. In this chapter, we give an overview of the Geminoid and the Telenoid, describing its appearance, teleoperation system and the concept of Android Science. We then focus on the artworks.

Kohei Ogawa, Hiroshi Ishiguro

Into the Soft Machine

This chapter traces the evolution of “soft machines” and inflatable robotics in the work of artist Chico MacMurtrie/Amorphic Robot Works (ARW). These kinetic machines, which take various forms and scales, explore the underlying essence of movement and transformation in organic and non-organic bodies. The artist recounts his creative journey as well as the technological and material aspects that enable the soft machines to change shape in relation to internal air pressure acting on multiple inflatable tubes, behaving like both muscles and bones. Early performances involving latex skins led to inflatable sculptures powered by inflatable “muscles.” More recent sculptures are conceived as a modular or “molecular” system, comprising webs of interconnected, inflatable members with hundreds of operable joints. The process of constant reinvention and refinement is reflected in the increasing sophistication of the couplings of the inflatable members and of light-weight, minimal-control systems. Interaction between machines and humans has been an ongoing pursuit of the soft machines, which are increasingly designed to interact with each other on the basis of air exchange. Ultimately the goal is to imbue the machines with a capacity for supple gesture and expression.

Chico MacMurtrie



I Want to Believe—Empathy and Catharsis in Robotic Art

Since the early 90s, we have been creating interactive installation and performance projects using robotics, audiovisuals, and processes inspired by Artificial Life. The goal of these projects is to induce empathy from the viewers towards characters that are nothing else than simple articulated metal structures. Our objective is to conceive and realize large-scale robotic environments that aim to question, reformulate and subvert the notions of behavior, projection and empathy that generally characterize interactions between humans and machines.

Bill Vorn

Designing Robots Creatively

Designing robots creatively involves not only the conceptualisation and realisation of robots that can interact with humans, but demands a focus on the experience of people as they encounter and interact with the robot. This focus on interactant experience requires an understanding of the context of the interaction and the culture within which it will take place, underscoring the importance of the social sciences and creative arts to social robotics; disciplines that have a long history of studying people and their relationships to the spaces that they inhabit. Four case studies of collaborative art-robotics projects are presented to illustrate the process of designing robots creatively, with strong emphasis on creating an engaging experience for people as they interact with the robot.

Mari Velonaki, David Rye

Robot Partner—Are Friends Electric?

This text examines Doepner’s individually realized works as well as his works within different art collectives from the early 1990s up until today, work that spans the broad field of technology-based art: Van Gogh TV/Piazza Virtuale; Ikit; Playground Robotics: When Robots Play; When Robots Draw: At The Borderline Between Human and Machine; Robot Partner; Living Rooms—Happy End of the 21st Century; Automated Table Modification; DrillBot; NoiseBot, and others. The text focuses on Doepner’s artistic explorations of today’s prevalent reception, use and impact of technology as a materialization of certain systems and techniques that critically influence our daily lives.

Stefan Doepner, Urška Jurman



Encounters, Anecdotes and Insights—Prosthetics, Robotics and Art

Performing with prosthetic attachments and robotic extensions, the artist’s body becomes an operational system that combines improvised actions with involuntary and automated motions. The body interfaced and interacting with machines, experiences its own movements as machinic. Using anecdotes, insights and references to my own practice, as well as to recent developments in robotics for medical, industrial and military uses, there is a discussion of the issues and ethics of human-robot interaction. Notions of aliveness, embodiment and agency become problematic. The hybridization of robotics and art generates contestable futures of form, function and aesthetics. Possibilities that can be actualized, interrogated, evaluated and possibly appropriated. Alternate anatomical architectures are engineered, experienced and interrogated.

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