Robots & Avatars (thanks @gboddington for the invite)

Last week I went to the press preview of Robots & Avatars, a selection of installations and projects examining how digital technologies can influence how human bodies might work a decade or so from now. It was put together by Body>Data>Space, an organisation that creates connections between performance, architecture, virtual worlds and new media and involved a range of collaborators and funders from across the globe, including MADE (Mobility for Digital Arts in Europe), RACIF (Robots and Avatars Collaborative and Intergenerational Futures), FACT (Foundation for Arts & Creative Technologies), the Knowledge Transfer Network and NESTA.

The commissions and exhibits were rather fascinating; my favourites were the following:

Visions of our communal dreams by Michael Takeo Magruder, Drew Baker, Erik Fleming and David Steele: Inside a beautiful golden painting frame is a digital screen that shows a virtual world that links to the physical, examining our relationships to our avatars in this digital age. Sort of like Second Life in a painting.

MeYouandUs by Alastair Elibeck and James Bailey: A camera next to a large screen records your movements as you walk by and plays them back with a slight delay, making you re-examine your movements and identity.

My Robot Companion by Anna Dumitriu, Alex May, Dr. Michael L.Walters and Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn: This reminded me of the robot companions I saw courtesy LIREC a couple of years ago. My Robot Companion is a robot whose face alone changes based on who is standing in front of it. The idea is to think about how we’d behave if we have robots as companions: what form would we want them to take? How would we interact with them?

It’s worth looking at all the projects on display – they do make you think about where technology can take us and if we’ll be equipped to consider both the practical and the larger philosophical questions that will face us at some point as a society.

The evening also featured a performance by digital artist Marco Donnaruma – a dance involving wearable technology that enabled him to produce sounds using his muscles. Yes, I did a double take when I saw that too. From his website:

During my performance muscle movements and blood flow produce subcutaneous mechanical oscillations, which are nothing but low frequency sound waves. Two microphone sensors capture the sonic matter created by my limbs and send it to a computer. This develops an understanding of my kinetic behaviour by *listening* to the friction of my flesh. Specific gesture, force levels and patterns are identified in real time by the computer; then, according to this information, it manipulates algorithmically the sound of my flesh and diffuses it through an octophonic system.

Robots and Avatars is a touring exhibition that is currently on show in London till 28th September at 12 Star Gallery, Europe House, 32 Smith Square – definitely worth a quick visit if you’re interested in technology and new media.

A big Thank You to Ghislaine Boddington, Creative Director at Body>Data>Space for the invitation.

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