Robotic Organism

Spring 2017 
Collaborators: Evi Bernitsas

Advisors:
Golan Levin
 
With the recent influx of technology in the realm of videography and photography, I wondered what would happen if the technology became that which was filmed, not just the assistant. Using an LED light controlled via Arduino, a programmable camera and a robot arm, my partner and I created an “organic” subject matter with absolutely inorganic physical matter. 

The final footage


Process —

When considering how we could leverage the robot arm, one idea was to create organic shapes and have the arm become a creature of its own. To visualize this, we decided to use a light to create a long-exposure frame. Since we did not want a static line, we decided to computationally vary the focus during the frame to add a more dynamic element to the shape. This idea was drawn from a photographic technique used on fireworks, called focus blur.



These are some photos of the rig. We had a single Arduino unit control the camera focus and LED color.
Along with our camera setup, we needed a tool, a scoresheet, a canvas that would allow for our painting. We wanted the power to control everything at once, and control exactly what was happening when. This was our solution.

Using OpenFrameworks Timeline, we created a UI that placed all the elements on the same timeline.

Each of these variables are easily maniuplated.
To create our desired light streak, I used Adobe After Effects’ Echo time effector.

After Effects allows me to repeat previous frames with the Echo Effector.
Original footage vs. Modified Footage

Once we had mastered the technique, we produced several more light shows, attempting to indirectly give beauty and personality to this machine. Those can be found at the top of this site.

Why is this project design?
What I learned —

Ultimately, this project involved attributing nature to an unnatural thing. Humanity to a robot. Empathy to an Alien. In the realm of Design X Technology, I think this might be the holy grail—we use products all day that force us to acclimate to them. When they are able to empathize and acclimate to us instead, I suppose that is when the product can truly feel natural and necessary. With this project, I explored in-depth what it looks like to have the “machine” persona disappear to only have the organism remain.

Hard-skills-wise, I learned a bit of Arduino, OpenFrameworks, Cinema4D and how to control these robots—as well as hone my skills in technical videography. 
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