No. 165


By : Eleni Xynogala

Entrant’s location : Greece



Robots are designed to play a significant role in everyday life as technological cohabitants. People tend to attribute human characteristic to the robots and face them as living organisms. Based on the ideas of cyborg and animism, we don’t understand robots as mere tools, but as creative entities, capable of expanding the role they are given by their human creators. TIRESIAS is a non-anthropomorphic entity that moves naturally trying to develop an equal dynamic partnership with the human co-performer. The work is based on the blind prophet Tiresias, who creates his own identities, escaping the distinctions of man and woman. TIRESIAS explores the ways in which we can avoid dualities of human and non-human entities and find new interesting relationships between different actors.

What did you create?

Tiresias is a blind figure from the Greek mythology, who can ‘see’ into oneself and find self-knowledge. It is not a man neither a woman, but an entity which tries to find its own identity. This installation speaks from the side of a tentacular machine. Tentacular beings explore the world and their self through touch. But the palm has not the means of covering the whole of the truth. The sensory perceptions can lead to misinterpretations, as there are various aspects of truth and limited sensory experience. Machines can sense properties of their environment. TIRESIAS is a self-actualising machine that tries to understand the properties of itself. The knowledge that TIRESIAS infers is reflected in the environment in the form of sound-waves as an approach to materialise the machines’ perception about itself. At the same time, an unusual duet co-performs for self-actualization through sensory experience. They explore the blurry lines between human and non-human, between the physical and the mechanical.

Why did you make it?

As designers that consider post-modern concepts which neglected the existence of universal truths and realities, we need to be critical about technologies in general - even though our attitude is underpinned by positive conceptions. Technologies, in its many forms; but especially robots - are an integral part of our lives. In the transitional period of today, where we cohabitate with robots, it is a necessity that we understand them better. Even though we believe in the positive nature of technology, it is important to acknowledge that all technologies are biased and a result of human creation. The design strategy of “animistic design” tries to emphasise the inherent liveliness within objects. By implication, technologies elicit impressions of emergent qualities like intelligence, awareness and even consciousness. We believe, that this proclivity, driven by anthropomorphic biases, is a suitable point of reference to engage the dialogue about the positive implications of technologies. Additionally, our work raises the following questions: Can we collaborate with a robot to dance and improvise? What is the robot’s role in the performance? Can we learn with and through them?

How did you make it?

The exploration of kinetic mechanisms led to a mechanism called the "elephant trunk robot" or "continuum robot". There are different variations of this mechanism, but they all have in common that they are highly manoeuvrable and consist of multiple segments which are connected to motors to make the mechanism move in a certain direction. In conclusion, the mechanism can be used within the context of auto-interactions in a way that the mechanism physically touches itself.

Your entry’s specification

The construction consists of 7 circular joined plywood disks, in which are attached 3 motors, 3 drivers, 1 power supply and 1 Arduino, and a flexible tentacular construction of 14 segments, made of 14 circular compression springs, 27 3D printed plastic joints and 14 acrylic disks. One thread is attached from the spool that is connected in each motor and it comes all the way through the construction, ending up to different segments of the tentacular structure. The size of the installation is 40x200x40cm and the weight is estimated about 15kg. It is attached in the ceiling using a projector mount, making it very stable. This project is developed using communication interfaces between systems, like the use of OSC and the transmission via UDP in a network, that makes the spine moves in a choreographic way.