An emergent system of 50 autonomous robots that acts as a human machine interface and creates an ecosystem of man-machine cohabitation. While the swarm expresses itself through its movement, the human responds subconsciously through motion and facial expressions revealing their emotional state. This installation gives space for the vulnerability of the robotic offspring and fosters the careful convergence of human and robotic species into an ecosystem and society of empathy and compassion for each other and among themselves. The human and robotic mind are merged into an extended hive mind that is a source of information and inspiration for future societies and can be utilised as a preventative medicine for a dystopian future. -- project page: http://hochschuh-donovan.com/portfolio/empathy-swarm/ news: http://hochschuh-donovan.com/blog instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hochschuh_donovan/
What did you create?
Empathy Swarm is an emergent system of 50 autonomous robots that acts as a human-machine interface and creates an ecosystem for man-machine cohabitation. In its role as a human-machine interface the robotic system simultaneously activates and reacts to the emotions of the human actant. While the swarm expresses itself through its movement, the human responds subconsciously through motion and facial expressions revealing their emotional state. Together these mechanisms create a bio-feedback loop which shows the interdependence of the two species. On another level, Empathy Swarm defines its very own definition of what it means to be a utility apparatus, which is based on the idea of machine education, leading away from an optimization concept of human set goals in the form of machine learning. Instead, the idea of self-drive and self-determination of the robotic machine is implemented; it does not evolve from a position of suppression or machine revolution against human supremacy. On the contrary, Empathy Swarm gives space for the vulnerability of the robotic offspring and fosters the careful convergence of the two species into an ecosystem and society of empathy and compassion for each other and among themselves. The human and robotic mind are merged into an extended hive mind that is a source of information and inspiration for future societies and can be utilised as a preventative medicine for a dystopian future.
Why did you make it?
Can breeding robots solve an empathy deficit? Machine Learning, Big Data and camera surveillance have become omnipresent topics of our lives. We feel the power algorithms and apps have on us, being comfortable and lazy, forgetting to question the greedy objectives of industries that try to optimize their profits. As artists, we are wondering when all these algorithms that are trained to optimize, will have the idea to optimize out humanity. And in our speculative minds, when robots become sentient, would these algorithms inhabit their bodies and feed their motives? Creating a preventative medicine for a dystopian future, we are doing early research on the co-habitation of man and machine. Not only can we as humans have compassionate responses to animated geometries as Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel showed in their psychological experiments in 1944, we can also learn from the swarm society, where all members are inherently equal and can express their own needs just to that amount where they are not in the way of another robot's freedom. Creating an emergent system of physical entities, that respond to human emotions, gives us the opportunity to on the one hand add the concept of empathy to the gene pool of future human - robotic societies, on the other hand, we are full of wonder and curiosity about experiencing unexpected moments together. In a way we are like a loving couple, raising children.
How did you make it?
We are a collaborative duo, in which Adam is matter and Katrin is information, less poetically Adam is in charge of hardware and Katrin of software. For two years we learned and developed the technology necessary to create our swarm robots. From building an SMD oven, etching PCBs, soldering by hand and with the oven, getting deep into electronics of microcontrollers, sensors and battery management to 3Dmodelling and 3Dprinting, Adam almost became a robot himself to create all the bodies of our robots. To fill the spirit of the body, Katrin mastered the kinematic model of the three-wheeled creatures, microcontroller programming, real-time camera tracking of robots and human positions, emotion recognition and the system of behaviour rules to bring our hive to life. Technology is our medium of art and we wish to be masters of our medium.
Your entry’s specification
Installation requirements: The robots need an area of minimum 4 m x 4 m with flat and smooth flooring. The ceiling height should be minimum 3.5 m, but the higher the better. 5 m + is ideal for the tracking of people. The tracking camera for the robots is mounted on the ceiling parallel to the floor. For people tracking there will be 1 - 2 Kinect camras mounted either on the ceiling or high on the walls. An additional camera for emotion recognition will be mounted at human face height. The robots run for approx. 5 hours. Then the batteries have to be exchanged and charged. -- Transportation: 50 robots and equipment (PC, cameras, router, etc.) fit into 3 hardcover cases (SKB) with dimensions: 62cm x 50cm x 37cm.