ArtBots 2004 (preview)
The Robot Talent Show (Sep. 17-19 '04)
"Jauntila" by Bacchus Barua
ArtBots 2003

New York City, NY - It's an ArtBots invasion in Harlem! The Third Annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show will take place on September 17, 18, & 19 from noon to 6:00pm at The Mink Building on 126th Street & Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem. Featuring the work of 20 artists and groups from seven countries, the show celebrates the strange and wonderful collision of shifty artists, disgraced engineers, high/low/no tech hackers, rogue scientists, beauty school dropouts, backyard pyros, and industrial espionage that has come to define the emerging field of robotic art. Participants include robots that sketch, carve, float, wiggle, hum, ring, grow, wander, and sing, as well a number of works the form and function of which are not yet well understood.

The ArtBots - 2004

ArtSBot (Art Symbiotic roBots)
Leonel Moura
sensors, servomotors, microchip, wheels, batteries, plastic, ink pens (2004)

ArtSBot is a set of autonomous robots that can produce paintings and drawings based on randomness and stigmergy. The paintings are the result of a self-organized process based on mobile robots that interact via the environment.


Leonel Moura is an artist born in Lisbon, Portugal, whose art merges with architecture, philosophy, science and technology. He has published several books on art, social analyses and science.

Acknowledgements: ArtSBot was funded by FCT (National Foundation for Science and Technology) under the scientific co-ordination of Henrique Garcia Pereira (Technical University of Lisbon). Robotics advice assured by ISR (Institute of Systems and Robotics of the Technical University of Lisbon) and physical implementation performed by IdMind.

Bionic Log
William Tremblay
Wood, steel, vinyl, latex, nylon, electronics (2003)

Bionic Log is a pneumatic robotic sculpture built around a section of tree trunk. Inside the log is a bank of pneumatic valves driven by a simple microcontroller program. These valves permit the flow of compressed air to the actuators in the limbs of the robot, which contract in a manner very similar to animal muscles. Although the control mechanism is simple, the resulting motions are very recognizable as human gestures, albeit the gestures of a confused or wounded person. Bionic Log is an extrapolated collision of the conflicting human imperatives of expediency and sentimentality, at once supporting and disproving the comforting notion that technology can solve any problem.


William Tremblay is an artist and interactive media programmer. His work addresses issues of human interaction with the technological world: the choices we make and the prices we pay. He tends to create machines and large scale installations. His work has been shown in numerous venues, among them the Kitchen in New York, Boston's Computer Museum, the List Center for Visual Arts at MIT, the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston, The Boston Center for the Arts and First Night Boston. He is co-inventor of the Virtual Reality Chair, for which he holds a patent. He attended the Studio for Interrelated Media at the Massachusetts College of Art, and is the proud owner of a Bridgeport milling machine, which he used to make custom parts for the bionic log. He lives in Boston where he opportunistically employs robotics, video and other technologies in ways they were never intended to be used.

DrawBot Modding Contest and Workshop
Jonah Brucker-Cohen
plastic cups, motors, markers, glue, tape, your imagination (2003)

Drawbot is a drawing system that anyone can use without having to learn electronics. It is a simple bot that mixes standard drawing materials (in this case magic markers) with weighted motors and plastic cups. When the cups vibrate, they draw circles and lines depending on their overall weight and power.

The Drawbot Modding Competition allows visitors to ArtBots to create simple Drawbots from the materials provided and encourages them to bring along any scrap materials (discarded electronics, junk, etc...) they want to integrate into their creation. All bots will be on display, can be taken home, and the winning bot will receive an award at the end of the show.


Jonah Brucker-Cohen works as a Researcher the Human Connectedness Group at Media Lab Europe in Dublin, Ireland and is a PhD candidate in the Disruptive Design Team of the Networks and Telecommunications Research Group (NTRG) at Trinity College Dublin. His focus is on subverting existing relationships to human/networked interfaces by building new real-world inputs to networks, redefining how information is used and disseminated, and shifting virtual processes into physical forms through networked devices and experiences. His work has been shown internationally at events such as Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ISEA, the Whitney Museum of American ArtÕs Artport and more.

Alex Baker
plywood, LCD screens, cameras, batteries, wires (1999)

Hand-eye is a wearable device designed to make seeing into an active and reaching sense.

It consists of 2 wrist mounted cameras which connect via cables to 2 LCD screens mounted inside a viewing helmet. The screens are placed directly over each eye - the left eye seeing the left hand view and the right the right hand view. As well as placing sight into an area of movement each eye is independent and so also gives the wearer the opportunity to be able to see in two directions at once.

For the wearer the environment is transformed. Although now enabled with two roving eyes each one has quite a narrow field of view lacking our normal peripheral vision. Simple tasks like walking across a room have to be re-learnt, although most adapt quite fast.

As a viewer on the outside one watches the tentative steps of the wearer as their arms and hands constantly move scanning the environment. It becomes almost like a dance with each different wearer responding differently, some staying tentative others quickly gaining confidence. It becomes evident how the placement of simple technology can have a strong effect on behaviour. How much of their attention is devoted to the relationship with Hand-eye and responding to the way the information that it provides transforms even the most basic environments.


Born 1974 in Hertfordshire, England. Lives in London. Works with sound, video, performance and machines experimenting with the transportation and transmission of experience and event, communication, voice and conversation. BA Middlesex University, MFA Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

Acknowledgements: Ray Finnis Charitable Trust

LEMUR: League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots
Eric Singer, Jeff Feddersen, Bil Bowen, Milena Iossifova
aluminum, steel, motors, solenoids, electronics (2002-present)

LEMUR is a Brooklyn-based collective of artists and technologists creating robotic musical instruments. LEMUR was the winner of the Audience Choice award at ArtBots 2003. In 2004, LEMUR will be back with new robots, including ModBots (miniature modular percussive robots).


Acknowledgements: LEMUR is supported in part by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, the Greenwall Foundation and the American Composers Forum. We also thank Harvestworks ( for sponsoring LEMUR.
Photo credits: Brendan FitzGerald, Bil Bowen

Living Particles
Ralf Schreiber
solarpanels, different electronic components, small motors, wire (2001-2004 (work in progress))

Living particles is an audio kinetic installation that consists of many different electronic modules, which are suspended from coloured elastic bands and together form an organic system. The individual components receive their whole energy from small solar cells. The light is transformed in electric energy. This energy is transformed in small sounds and motion. All modules of the installation are based on very simple analogue electronic circuits. The amount of voltage is very low like in biological systems, so every module is very sensitive and works astabile. Changing light condition affects the quality and level of the emitted frequencies. All modules are connected among themselves. The appearance of the whole installation represents the intern electronic structures of each module. The energy is shared and feed backed in the system. The Signals of grouped modules interfere amongst themselves and with the sounds of the environment. The result is a turbulent surface full of chaotic motions, vibrations and undulations, small sounds, superimposing, enhancing or interrupting each other.


Born 1964 in Cologne, Germany. Lives in Cologne and works with audio installations, robotics, chaotic processes, auto active systems and silence. 1999-2002 Postgraduate studies at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, 1993-1997 MA studies at the Muenster College of Art

Acknowledgements: Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Mark Tilden, photos by Ernas Simkunas

"machines will eat itself" /
Franz Alken
java/php/html/webl (2003-4)

Those who enter the net lose their privacy: countless concerns are financed by trading with user data - user profiles are generated, surfing habits are stored and sold to those who can then optimise their services. Is there a possibility to get rid off this "spionage"?

This is the endeavour to attack these conditions by methodically reducing the value of the collected data: bots - programms, equipped with virtual character profiles - travel the net, permanently looking for possibilities to prove their presence in the databases of companies.


Born in 1974, Frankfurt/m, studies media arts at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, living and working in Leipzig, Germany.

Open Sesame
Sean Salmon, James Tichenor, Vasil Daskalopoulos, Phillip Stanley-Marbell
sythetic felt, nitinol, custom pcb boards (2004)

In 1851 Gottfreid Semper Published The Four Elements of Architecture in which he divided the practice of architecture in to the study of four basic elements: (1) the earthwork, (2) the hearth, (3) the framework/roof, and (4) the lightweight enclosing membrane. Of these four elements Semper placed the greatest emphasis of research d importance on the lightweight membrane that was traditionally a textile. This woven surface was seen as having a perceptual primacy as the horizontal surface in architecture, and to better understand our perception and the possibilities of this surface required the technical study of how this surface is constructed.

The technical innovations of the early twentieth century in building construction allowed architects to leverage Semper's ideas of a textile surface as enclosing membrane into modernisms ideas of "free-plan" and "free-facade". Accepting the lightweight woven membrane as the primary architectural element, this project looks to incorporate the transformative power of electricity and information into the craft of production of a wall surface. Our robot will be a surface that opens and blooms in response to the sounds of the visitors. Hung on the existing walls as a wall surfacing element this second surface consists of layers of felt that are cut in patterns that allow the surface to open, revealing an psychedelic array of shifting patterns and colors. Pulling from the world of the baroque and drug soaked psychedelica the surface similarly presents an altered state of reality in with the surface of the walls dissolve and responds to our actions as viewers. The electronics of the piece are fairly simple; it uses a series of small microphones as sensors distributed across the surface to measure volume levels at points. This information is fed to a microcontroller that in-turn actuates a network of shape memory alloy wires. The intelligence or craft of the project is in the leveraging of a technical understating of how a woven surface can be made to increase the expressive and perceptual effects of the electronics in the project. That is, there is an interplay between the laser-cut incisions on the felt plane and the network of vector lines of the actuator wires that creates a shallow space surface of complexity.


After completing degrees in architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Sean Salmon and James Tichenor have worked together under the name FourPlus, exploring ideas of space and interactivity in as series of installations at locations ranging from the annual D.U.M.B.O arts festival to noise music performance spaces. James has completed Masters Degree in Design in Computation at MIT's Department of Architecture where he worked as a researcher designing and prototyping reactive surfaces and researching their position in art/architectural history of decorative arts. This fall he will be a researcher at Interaction Institute Ivrea. Sean Salmon, after getting his architectural license, is returning to academia to study at ITP at NYU in Fall 2004. Vasil Daskalopoulos and Phillip Stanley-Marbell collaborate on software projects for the Inferno operating system. Vasil is continuing his computer engineering education at Rutgers and Phillip is a researcher is at Carnegie Mellon focusing on smart matter

Daniel Canazon Howe, Jeff Han
aluminum, acrylic, fencewire, motors, props, scraps (2004)

Ornithoids is an interactive, kinetic, sound-sculpture composed of rotor-propelled, sonically-enabled robots flying through a large wire enclosure. Each self-contained robot is equipped with its own speaker for sound output and is capable of movement in all directions within a plane. While interactions continuously occur between the RotoBots themselves, each is also able to 'sense' the presence and movements of audience members and to vary its behavior accordingly, attempting to facilitate interaction. Each robot is programmed with a unique behavior set ranging from submissive to dominant, solitary to social, and fearful to hostile -- mirroring aspects of our own relationship to technology. As the simple behaviors of individual robots yield more complex and unexpected system behavior, the work interrogates the disparities between a system's intention and its realization in the world, inviting us to consider how such gaps impact our social responsibility as designers of such systems.


Daniel C. Howe is a digital artist & doctoral candidate at the NYU Media Research Lab. His interests include sound design, alternative human-computer interfaces & social aspects of technology. In addition to a background in improvisational music & creative writing, Daniel has masters' degrees in Computer Science (UW) & Interactive Media (ITP), as well as nearly ten years of industry experience as a programmer, software designer, artist and educator.

Jeff Han is a senior research scientist at the NYU Media Research Lab, focusing on the areas of computer graphics, computer vision, multimedia systems, and interactive techniques. Most recently, he developed the highly successful vision tracking system for ACCESS, which has been exhibited at Eyebeam, SIGGraph 2003, and Ars Electronica 2003. Jeff studied computer science and electrical engineering at Cornell University.

Recycle Robot
Dan Paluska
cardboard. electric motor. display case (2004)

The recycle robot is a cardboard automaton who reuses and recycles all day long. It diligently recycles every box it uses and only uses recycled boxes.


Dan Paluska is a robotics researcher and artist based in the boston area. He is currently pursuing his phd in mechanical engineering at MIT. In research and art he is interested in the intersection of humans and their automation.

Self Preservation Machine
Aaron Arendt
Metal, wood, plastic, fabric, cowboy boots (2001)

The Self Preservation Machine is mankind's last line of defense against the ever increasing dangers of the modern world. Ride comfortably inside its padded interior, hermetically sealed from the world around you. The S.P.M.'s thick exoskeleton, robust punching arms and swift kicking legs will protect you from the aggressive attack of any man, woman, animal, natural disaster, or other* harmful attack that you can think of.

*Has not been tested to withstand a nuclear blast, but in theory, it should work.


Aaron Arendt is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, Where he studied kinetic sculpture. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He makes sculptures and short films about experimental machines, vehicles, and weapons that are designed to make the world a 'safer' place.

Bruce Shapiro
sand, steel ball, custom two-axis motion control system, custom path design and control software (1998-2003)

A magnet traces complex, computer controlled paths beneath-- while above, a steel ball in a field of sand creates dune patterns in its wake. As in the Greek myth from which it draws its name, Sisyphus rolls its "boulder" endlessly, only to witness the cyclic undoing of this labor.


Bruce Shapiro (1957) received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota in 1983. After practicing as an internist for five years he left medicine to pursue his fascination with connecting computers to stuff that moves. He has been following that passion wherever it leads him for the past 14 years.

String Ball Collector
Ellen Lake and Chris Green
steel, electronics, motor, acrylic, nylon (2002)

The String Ball Collector is a small metal machine that travels in a circle attempting to gather hand wrapped string balls. As the machine successfully picks up certain balls, others fall out. Over time, patterns begin to form marking the successes and failures of the machine and charting the path of the String Ball Collector. Ideas emerge about collecting, obsession, routine, expectation, and disappointment.


Ellen Lake received her MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California in 2002. She studied sculpture, video, and electronic arts. She is now working on a series of experimental documentaries on collecting and hoarding.

Chris Green is a hydrologist working at the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California. He received his PhD in Hydrologic Sciences from University of California, Davis in 2002. Ellen Lake and Chris Green are currently collaborating on their next mechanical sculpture.

Acknowledgements: Mills College Art Department

Thoughts go by air
Machine Cent'red Humanz [Chip Kali, Lahaag, and Spess]
helium, latex and electronics, hmm (2004)

It should not be too difficult to build a a species of independently flying creatures that communicate among each other, using human energy and presence. Like Hitchcock's birds suggest: with their own systems of collective and collaborative intelligence driving on humans mobility as a source and interface.

This is the first test of a flock of balloons that can typically communicate with another flock in a distance, and exchange information regarding its own shape and movement. It can learn to adapt and act differently than local observations would suggest. Hence it will enact on human forms of gathering like: parties, openings/closings, bingo events, artbot shows, exhibitions and performances. Plans are drawn to have simultaneous flocks in Den Hague (Nederland), Trnva (Slovakia) and Brussels (Belgium).

"Of course due to the lack of wings on human bodies" (Chip Kali) "Machines that deal with people rather than people that deal with machines!" (Lahaag)


machine cent'red humanz _ is a collective of machinic artists, swinging on the hooks that tear apart the fabric of a recent rhetorical past to uncover an activity based future! [artbots, installations, performances, streams] "everything that can be marketed will eventually vanish"

Three Blind Mice
ART: Art Re-envisions Technology: Remo Campopiano, Guy Marsden & Jonathan Schull
glass, plastic, electronics, three white mice (2004)

Three Blind Mice is a performance art piece by three white mice driving three small glass cars. The mice will have already logged on enough driver training hours to be adept at operating the vehicles. What they choose to do with their mobility is yet to be seen.


A.R.T. is an art collaborative in the USA made up of Remo Campopiano, Guy Marsden and Jonathan. We came together in 2001 to create a piece for the Complexity exhibition at the Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY. Our collaboration produced Eight-bit Ant Farm Since then we have formalized our collective under the name A.R.T. (Art Re-envisions Technology) and have been working on a number of new projects including Three Blind Mice.

Remo Campopiano is a sculptor living and working in Seekonk, Massachusetts. Campopiano is best known for his live-art museum installations, for which he has won many fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Award.

In 1992 he led an international art movement out of a small storefront in Soho called ARTNETWEB; a network of people and projects investigating new media in the practice of art. ARTNETWEB culminated in the historical Internet-performance art exhibition at MIT entitled PORT: Navigating Digital Culture. Campopiano interests include bio-art, robotic-art, visualizing historical time, visualizing digital data flow including the Internet and helping younger artist as a mentor.

Guy Marsden began creating and exhibiting electronic artworks in the mid 1980's. His early work included controlled discharge neon plasma in complex glass envelopes. A continuing series called "Digital Numeric Relevators" satirize our implicit trust in electronically represented numeric information. His work has shown in museums and galleries throughout the US and Canada. He enjoys multiple parallel and serial careers including motion picture special effects in the 1980's. Currently he operates ART TEC providing engineering services to his fellow artists and also to inventors. He also makes fine wood furnishings and recently began creating turned wood artworks.

Jonathan Schull is a biological psychologist with a longstanding interest in adaptive systems, evolutionary psychology and the spread of information through intelligent networks. Schull has done scholarship and invention in intellectual property protection, information commerce, the new information economy the nature of intelligence in biological and artificial systems. A professor of Information Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology he is currently focusing on information visualization and the development of novel personal interfaces to the information ecology.

Hayes Raffle, Amanda Parkes, Hiroshi Ishii
injection molded ABS resin, polyurethane resin, embedded servo motors, custom electronics, and custom software (2002-4)

What is it like to sculpt with motion? Topobo is a 3D constructive assembly system embedded with kinetic memory, the ability to record and playback physical motion. By snapping together a combination of Passive (static) and Active (motorized) components, people can quickly assemble dynamic biomorphic forms like plants, animals and skeletons with Topobo, animate those forms by pushing, pulling, and twisting them, and observe the system repeatedly play back those motions. For example, a moose can be constructed and then taught to gesture and walk by twisting its body and legs. The moose will then repeat those movements and walk repeatedly. Topobo works like an extension of the body givng one's gestural fluency computation and memory.


Hayes Raffle is a practicing artist and designer researching the relationships between people and machines. Recently, Hayes has created toys, systems and devices for people to use gesture, touch and natural physical skills to improve communication, to facilitate artistic expression and to understand dynamic system behavior. Before joining the MIT Media Lab, Hayes studied sculpture at Yale, helped design and develop the ZOOB building system and ran his own art and design studio in California. He is the winner of several internationally recognized art and design awards and has shown his work in exhibitions around the United States and Europe.

Amanda Parkes is a designer currently researching in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her research interests include developing intuitive and investigative learning and design tools as well as explorations into the relationship of gesture, form, materiality and computation in the context of hybrid physical-digital objects. Previously, Amanda worked as a media exhibit developer at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and developed installations and programs for the Venice Guggenheim and the National Science Museum in London. Amanda holds a B.S. in Product Design Engineering and a B.A. in Art History from Stanford University and has received various international art and design awards.

Hiroshi Ishii is a tenured Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, at the MIT Media Lab. He joined the MIT Media Laboratory in October 1995, and founded the Tangible Media Group to pursue a new vision of Human Computer Interaction: "Tangible Bits." His team seeks to change the "painted bits" of desktop computers to "tangible bits" by giving physical form to digital information and computation. Ishii and his students have presented their vision of "Tangible Bits" at a variety of academic, industrial design, and media art venues including ACM SIGCHI, ACM SIGGRAPH, Industrial Design Society of America, and Ars Electronica, emphasizing that the development of tangible interfaces requires the rigor of both scientific and artistic review. Since July 2002, Ishii has co-directed the Thing That Think Consortium at the MIT Media Lab.

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge Josh Lifton's significant contribution developing Topobo's firmware. Other collaborators include Cristobal Garcia, Wesley Jin, Andy Lieserson, Brian Mazzeo, Ben Recht, Jeremy Schwartz, Elysa Wan, Nick Williams, and Laura Yip. Thanks also to Arthur Ganson, Mitchell Resnick and Bakhtiar Mikhak for ideas and encouragement, the members of the Tangible Media Group, and all of the professional educators who have supported this project. This project has been supported by the MIT Media Lab's Things That Think consortium.

Nicholas Stedman & Rhya Tamasauskas
Textiles, Foam, Plastic, Electronics, Motors (2004)

Tribot is an alien companion. With three equadistant legs radiating from its center, and limited touch sensibility, the robot attempts to blindly navigate through a given space. For ArtBots, the artists will take Tribot on a walk through parts of New York City and document the event. This is done in an attempt to generate social interaction with the machine. During the exhibition, Tribot will be displayed as an artifact, along with its garments and the documentation, so the audience may examine the various aspects of the project.


Nicholas Stedman is a Canadian artist living in Toronto. Working primarilly with electronics and sculptural materials he makes physical objects that perform actions. His work has been shown locally, nationally and internationally. He works at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, facilitating exhibitions, workshops and member participation. Nicholas graduated from Ryerson University in 2001 with a B.F.A. in new media.

Rhya Tamasauskas is a Toronto based visual artist and writer. Since completing her B.F.A from Ryerson University in image arts, she spends most of her days knitting wonders out of words, stitching street wear for robots and sewing all the many monsters and creatures that fall out of her eyes, ears, mouth and nose. She is an active member the independent writing collective Tuesday and a partner in the soft sculpture company The Monster Factory and Farms.

Wildflower Meadow Glacier
James Powderly,Michelle Kempner, Tom Kennedy, Todd Polenberg, Brendan Fitzgerald, Paul Bartlett
polycarbonate plastic, steel, aluminum, custom electronics and mechanisms, motors and other actuators, solar panels, code and flora (2004)

The Wildflower Meadow Glacier One (WMG1) is an autonomous robot and sculpture that manifests the metaphor of a glacier. It is named after the Wildflower Meadow in Central Park's North Woods, where we propose to ultimately install the final generation of this large-scale public sculpture. The robot, a series of five translucent cubes, will move at an imperceptibly slow rate, in a manner similar to an inchworm, and record carbon dioxide levels in the local atmosphere. The WMG1 will then document this environmental data by planting varying patterns and species of flora in the abraided earth left in its wake.

This first prototype of the WMG is 50 inches in length and over one foot tall. It will be designed to operate autonomously, on solar power, for one month moving at a rate of 1.6 inches per day. We intend the final iteration of the glacier to be over 10 feet tall, 40 feet long and built to last 100 years.

As an artistic piece, the WMG forces us to re-imagine, both beautifully and tragically, our relationship with nature, technology and time. The WMG's operational timescale forces a shift in our perspective and focus. It allows us to see our relationship with the natural world diachronically, beyond the scale of our individual life, thus forcing us to become aware of our own mortality and the mortality of the human race as a consequence of global warming. The floral output left in the trail of the WMG suggests both whimsy and loss, echoing a variation of the Catholic-Mestizos tradition of Flores para los Muertos. The Wildflower Meadow Glacier will be a testament to man's ability to make the impossible possible, to harness both nature's metaphors and power. Yet, it is implicit that the robot is dragging itself, painfully slowly, toward a future that will not include humankind.


James Powderly is a roboticist and artist working in the field of artificially intelligent art. James studied at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, receiving his Master's Degree in digital arts from the Interactive Telecommunications Program in 2002. Prior to moving to NYC, he completed his undergraduate studies in music composition and theory at the University of Tennessee. James has had collaborations with artists and engineers exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the MOMA Queens, PS1, and the Sculpture Center. This work has been featured on NPR and the New York Times. He is a member of Eyebeam's Creative Technology R&D Goup and co-founder of the NYC chapter of the Robotics Society of America. James frequently collaborates with his wife, artist/programmer Michelle Kempner.

James is currently working in Technology Development at Honeybee Robotics, an aerospace robotics company located in lower Manhattan. His project contributions include work on the science team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover's Rock Abrasion Tool and a collaboration with Diller + Scofido on a robotic drill named "Mural", featured in their mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Michelle Kempner is a software developer with experience in object-oriented programming languages and relational database design. Michelle received a Master's Degree in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU where she focused on programming and physical computing. Previous projects include real-time video effects rendering in Java, musical MIDI gloves and a networked computer vision installation. Currently, she is collaborating with her husband James Powderly on everything they can think of.

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. and Eyebeam's Creative Technology R&D group for design and software consultation, as well as the use of lab facilities and resources.

elf - electronic life forms
Pascal Glissmann, Martina Hoefflin
Prints, Weckglasses, small solar analog circuits (2004)

One part of the installation shows photographs documenting a natural environment populated with small analog solar robots, the so called uncommon life forms. The contrast of electronic and nature seems to disappear and fade away. The unknown species in our well known surrounding looks acceptable and even comfortable to the observer.

The other part of the installation consists of Weck-glasses as prisons of the uncommon life forms. This scenario reminds of Childhood adventures, exploring and discovering the world around us. The elfs still get their needed solar energy, but seem to desperatly use their only communication chanel, chaotic sounds and movements, to call the attention of the outside world.

elf _electronic life forms
_uncommon for having transistors, capacitors, resistors instead of organs, DNA or a brain.
_uncommon for each one looking and acting different but being the same species.
_uncommon for being art-ificial but appearing natural.

_life forms since they live while the sunlight is available for them.
_life forms since they produce sounds and motion out of light (some call this photosynthesis).
_life forms since they are analog and act unpredictable.

The entomological field study of this species - initially called elf - focuses on observing behaviour, sounds and motion in nature and in captivity.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants and some bacteria use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar, which cellular respiration converts into ATP, the "fuel" used by all living things. The conversion of unusable sunlight energy into usable chemical energy is well known. But the direct conversion into movements and sounds is a new field in the artificial animal research. Like a plants' leaf may be viewed as a solar collector crammed full of photosynthetic cells some body parts of the elf species have a light absorbing capacity. Other parts can collect this energy up to the necessary amount that is needed to execute a certain behaviour (movements, sounds, ...). For that reason elfs are photosynthetic organisms with light dependent processes (light reactions) balancing between autotrophic and non-autotrophic life forms.


Pascal Glissmann, born 1973 in Germany, studied Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf focusing on photography, typography and interaction design. After completing his MFA in audiovisual media at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, gaining work experience in New York City and working as an Art Director in Germany he is now researching and teaching at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.

Martina Höfflin, born 1971 in Kenzingen, Germany, studied Computer Science at the Academy of Applied Sciences in Furtwangen and the San Francisco State University focussing on interaction design, usability and internet applications. After 2 years of freelancing as a media designer for different companies and customers in Berlin and Munich, she is now working in research at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne since 2002. Besides she is cofounder of the Büro für Brauchbarkeit, a studio for media, art and fashion in Cologne.

David Birchfield, David Lorig, Kelly Phillips
gongs, a water tanks, water pumps, lights, gong resonating mechanism (2004)

A soft murmuring chord and a shimmering play of light greet a visitor as she enters the space of the installation. Seven automated water gongs around the space resonante at fluctuating pitches. As the gongs resonante, the surface of the water in the tanks will ripple. A lamp at the bottom of each tank illuminates this ripple pattern and projects it on the ceiling and walls of the space. This ambient environment is in constant flux at a slowly sliding pace. As the water levels in each tank rise and fall, the pitch of the resonance will shift. As the solenoid actuators alter their pulse rates, and as the illuminating lamps dim and rise, the visual ripples and shadows will change intensity and character.


Design and implementation of this work is executed by a collaborative team of three musicians, artists, and fabricators.

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Arts, Media and Engineering Program at Arizona State University.

Contact Info

For more information about ArtBots, please contact Douglas Repetto:

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