The Hosts: A Masquerade Of Improvising Automatons

The Hosts: A Masquerade Of Improvising Automatons extends Wade Marynowsky’s development of custom-built robotics and interactive, performative media. In this installation, Marynowsky explores roboticist Masahiro Mori’s theory outlined in The Uncanny Valley (1970), which suggests that in designing humanoid robots one should not aim for total human likeness, but for an alternative to an uncanny appearance.

Media artist/artistic director; Wade Marynowsky, Electrical engineer; Aras Vaichas, Programmer; Jeremy Apthorp, Lighting; Mirabelle Wouters Costume; Sally Jackson, Photos; Garth Knight.

14 August – 12 September, 2009, Performance Space at the Carriage Works, 245 Wilson Street, Sydney, Australia.



Boris the bourgeois robot.

Wade Marynowsky; The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie robot.
Electrical engineering: Aras Vaichas, Software design: Mr.Snow, Dress maker: Susan Marynowsky.

The Insitute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N). 5th – 21st of December, 2008, Sydney, Australia.

By appropriating the title of the film The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (1972) I pay homage to the surrealist film director Luis Buñuel. The film is about a group of upper middle class people attempting, despite continual interruptions to dine together. So what is Bunuel trying to say? That the bourgeoisie are charming because they have nothing to worry about except how and when they will dine together? Or that they are in fact hideous creatures with nothing better to do than waffle about?

Taking this question into the gallery, the bourgeoisie robot is operated by invited mystery guests over the internet, for the duration of the exhibition. The charming robot avatar waits for visitors to enter the space and then converses with them in a polite and pleasant manner. The robot is interested in talking about food, robots, dancing and other general bourgeois banter. In doing so the robot questions the role of the gallery as a place of contemplation.

The robot wears a hooped dress, which recalls the beginnings of automata, the 18th century. For example: Jacques de Vaucanson’s mechanical flute player and defecating duck (1738). Vaucanson’s automata stunned European eyes of the era producing the first uncanny moments in robotic art.

The fact that bourgeois robot’s voice is male and that he wears a dress highlights the camp sensibility of robots. As Steve Dixon states in his essay Metal performance (2005) “Robotic movement mimics and exaggerates but never achieves the human, just as camp movement mimics and exaggerates but never achieves womanhood”.

The robots head, consisting of a camera inside a plastic dome, references the now common place surveillance (CCTV) domes in shopping centres and other public spaces. Through physical inhabitation of a real-life avatar the work is concerned with the evolution of mediated communication technologies and their influence on the nature of the conversation.


Tryphon – SAILS

Asya Ablogina

Project group: SAILS -> Self-Assembling-Lighter-Than-Air-Structures

Project Name: Tryphon

Authors: Nicolas Reeves, NXI GESTATIO Design Lab, University of Quebec in Montreal.

[Project engineer : David St-Onge].

  1. Technic : The Tryphons are cubic aerobot of 2.25m side made of a carbon fiber structure. They are entirely autonomous. Equipped with a main computer brain, they can analyze data comming from many different sensors on the robots (light, ultrasounds, acceleration, compass, etc.) and after interpreting them send the appropriate commands to the motors. The robots may move freely in space, without any wire, only by the thrust of their brushless turbofans. The behaviour of the robots depends only on the programming preceding the performance and are limited only by the artist’s imagination.
  2. Art : Since the beginning of the Tryphon (and before Mascarillon) project the creators’ choose to make use of the robots for artistic purposes. One of the first objective was (and still is) to be able to assemble many of those flying cube together in space as a 3D printer able to represent in reality architecture virtual models The idea linking cubes with architecture is far more important then their use or their complex carbon fiber structure. It relies in the basic concept of viewing a non aerodynamic object floating and evolving in space without any wires or any grounded equipement. As example of other performance’s possibilities let’s mention : floating projection screen over a crowd, autonomous robots acting with simple insect-like behaviour in restricted environment (pictures of Moscow), interaction with actors in theater. The team is actually working on the last one to present next year a 4 actors – 4 robots performance in Montréal (Canada).

The BEAR – Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot

The patent-pending BEAR is Vecna Robotics’™ flagship program. Designed to locate, lift and rescue people in harm’s way, the humanoid BEAR can do what humans can’t: lift heavy loads and carry them long distances. Whether on a battlefield, in a mine shaft, near a toxic chemical spill, or inside a structurally-compromised building after an earthquake, the BEAR can rescue those in need without risking additional human life.

The Vecna Robotics™ BEAR project has won key funding from the US Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), a part of the US Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC).

The BEAR’s™ patent-pending technology is a marriage of three elements: A powerful upper body controlled by hydraulics; an agile mobility platform that features two independent sets of tracked “legs”; and dynamic balancing behavior. The robot is able to balance itself while on the balls of its “ankles.” In fact, the BEAR can remain upright whether balancing on its ankles, its knees, or even its hips.

The BEAR is currently in proof-of-concept development stage. A prototype of the BEAR has been built and outfitted with a powerful torso and arms, together with a dynamic balancing system on its unique tracked legs. Together, the robot prototype has been able to demonstrate standing while holding a fully-weighted human mannequin, and carrying the mannequin around in its arms while dynamically balanced in an upright position. The robot has also stood up from a kneeling position to look over walls, or to lift its payload onto a high shelf.



PERCRO Body Extender

An ongoing research project of the PERCRO Perceptual Robotics Laboratory, this is a highly interdisciplinary effort involving coordination and collaboration between engineers, artists, designers and neuroscientists. The aim is to develop a sophisticated full-body robotic interface, driven by sensors capable of sensing human muscle activity and interpreted by intelligent software systems, through which the robot becomes a natural extension of the user’s body and mind.


Terrain 01


“The interactive AL-installation consists of a microcosm (a bordered-off semicircular, physical space) inhabited by a colony of small robots (dynamic systems) much like autonomous, cybernetic vehicles. The robots are equipped with photocells—and so light becomes the main power source of this system—and sensors, which function like perceptual organs, and which allow them freedom of movement in the microcosm and the ability to perceive the movement and position of others. So movement processes and the movements of the active ‹life depend entirely on the intensity of the light being projected onto the colony of robots. This intensity responds to an interactive set-up, which creates indirect contact between the external viewer and the robots. A brainwave sensor, placed on the head of the interactant, measures his or her brain activity, which is then sent to the system and controls, in turn, the intensity of the projected light. Through an indirect interface and immaterial form of communication (brain activity), the internal and external world become reciprocal and inverted: the more intense or erratic the viewer’s brain activity, the less light strikes the robots and the more apathetic the behavior of the colony; or the weaker the brain impulses (the more relaxed the viewer), the more chaotic the movements of the robot colony become.” [medienkunstnetz.de]




Paro is a therapeutic robot baby seal, intended to have a calming effect on and elicit emotional responses in patients of hospitals and nursing homes, similar to Animal-Assisted Therapy.

It was designed by Takanori Shibata of the Intelligent System Research Institute of Japan’s AIST beginning in 1993. It was first exhibited to the public in late 2001, and handmade versions have been sold commercially since 2004. Paro is based on harp seals Shibata saw in Canada, where he also recorded their cries that Paro uses.

The robot has touchsensors and responds to petting by moving its tail and opening and closing its eyes. It also responds to sounds and can learn its own name. It can show emotions such as surprise, happiness and anger. It produces sounds similar to a real baby seal and (unlike a real baby seal) is active during the day and goes to sleep at night.

AIST refers to Paro as a ”Mental Commitment Robots”, which they define as: “developed to interact with human beings and to make them feel emotional attachment to the robots. Rather than using objective measures, these robots trigger more subjective evaluations, evoking psychological impressions such as “cuteness” and comfort. Mental Commitment Robots are designed to provide 3 types of effects: psychological, such as relaxation and motivation, physiological, such as improvement in vital signs, and social effects such as instigating communication among inpatients and caregivers.”

Paro is at present also being used in Danish nursing homes.




Wakamaru is a Japanese domestic robot made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, primarily intended to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people. The robot is yellow, 1m tall, and weighs 30 kilograms. It has two arms and its flat, circular base has a diameter of 45 cm. It is in commercial sale today.

Wakamaru runs a Linux operating system on multiple microprocessors. It can connect to the Internet, and has limited speech (in both male and female voices) and speech recognition abilities. Functions include reminding the user to take medicine on time, and calling for help if it suspects something is wrong.


ASIMO – Advanced Step in Innovative MObility


ASIMO is a humanoid robot created by Honda. Standing at 130 centimeters (4 feet 3 inches) and weighing 54 kilograms (114 pounds), the robot resembles a small astronaut wearing a backpack and can walk or run on two feet at speeds up to 6 km/h. ASIMO was created at Honda’s Research & Development Wako Fundamental Technical Research Center in Japan, and was unveiled i 2000.

Officially, the name is an acronym for “Advanced Step in Innovative MObility” and not a reference to science fiction writer and inventor of the Three Laws of Robotics, Isaac Asimov.

Asimo represented state of the art robotics i 2000 when it was first introduced. Amongst other things it has the capacity to recognition of moving objects, recognition of postures and gestures, recognizing its environments, distinguish sounds and recognize faces.





Essentially an advanced supercomputer on wheels, KITT (known also as Knight Industries Two Thousand/Knight Industries Three Thousand) is the short name of a fictional character on the adventure TV series Knight Rider. KITT is an artificial intelligence electronic computer installed in a highly advanced, very mobile, robot in the form of a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

KITT has special features such as Turbo Boost, which allows quick bursts of speed or jumping over obstacles, the ability to drive himself, a front mounted scan bar that, among other things, allowed KITT to “see,” “molecular bonded shell” coated body panel armor coating which resisted conventional weapon fire as well as most artillery and explosive blasts although a strong direct hit could cause severe damage. A refit in the 1985 season included the addition of “Super Pursuit Mode” and a convertible top. The car’s voice was supplied by actor William Daniels. [Wikipedia]