An artist, coder and designer, Madeline Gannon, decided to explore new ways for humans and robots to relate to one another.
Anyone that's worked with industrial robots will tell you that these robotic mechanisms have an uncanny, almost unsettling presence. Obviously, you know that they are programmed automatons, but when they start moving, well huge arms starts swinging through the air with inhuman precision and speed, some primeval part of your brain lights up like a switchboard and calls start pouring in.
"Danger, Danger!" it starts, "It's time to get away from this robot revolution". However, Madeline Gannon is someone who delights in this discrepancy. She’s an artist, coder, and designer who, for the past few years, has been exploring how humans relate to robots; programming machines that react to our presence and that use mechanical body language of their own to communicate back. In that fecund little valley that divides our rational and instinctive reactions, Gannon’s work thrives.
She recently launched a new piece, called Manus, which makes the leap from a single robot to pack behaviour. At the World Economic Forum in September, Gannon installed 10 industrial robot arms in a row, linking them to a single, central controller. Using depth sensors at their bases that give them a "worm's eye view" of the world, these robots would track passersby and respond to their movements. Algorithms made judgements on who to pay attention to (ranking people who hung around longer higher than those who just arrived, for example), while the robots' motions flowed from one arm to the next like ripples in a pond.
The motivations behind her work is the process behind training a pack of robots; and how animalistic behaviour might help us imagine a more harmonious future between human and machine. Part of the agenda with her installations is to give people the ability to imagine a different future with these machines.
Have a look at the video below to learn more about the pack of robots, learning about body language.