Robots That Jump

Robot Bodies Needed Before Robot Minds

Robots That Jump – Historical, July 7-12, 2003

Thursday, July 10, 2003
The Art Robot
Talk about a cool university! The University of Western Australia has a group called the The SymbioticA Research Group (SARG). According to their website they are “a research facility dedicated to artistic inquiry into new knowledge and technology.” This parallels groups, primarily in Europe, that have been mixing technology and art, in particular robotic technology. Their current project is mind-blowing, and definitely fits the idea that any real robotic intelligence must be ’embodied’ – in a tight, embedded loop with sensory information. In concert with the Georgia Institute of Technology (who recently connected a few thousand rat neurons via 60 microelectrodes) they made a robot art draw. The rat-neuron cyborg (or Hyrdobot). The result is described below by Zdnet Australia:

“The U.S. hybrot was linked over the Internet to a robotic arm with three coloured pens created by SARG which responded to electrical signals from the hybrot, the first time neurons over an electrode array have communicated over the Internet to a remote location. ‘The areas of activity in the neural culture respond to [movements] in the robotic arm,’ Oron Catts, artistic director of SARG told ZDNet Australia . ‘For example, if the upper left area of the neural culture activates the arm moves that way.’

The resulting robot is called “MEART,” which stands for multi-electrode array art. Catts said there was a feedback loop so the neurons could “see” what they were drawing. ‘The culture is fed with the original image, the portrait that they are trying to produce, and what they have drawn already so they can subtract the image,’ he said. ”

The purpose of this experiement is twofold. On the tech side, the system demonstrates environmental feedback and learning. The cultured neurons can be observed (via colored dyes) to learn more how memory occurs in natural systems. On the artistic side, Catts said the experiment was a bridge between the cultural interpretation of life and the scientific side of life. Their goal is nothing less than to use science to create “something other than human” that can be seen as artistically creative.


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