Monday, September 22, 2008

Robotic Ecologies Update

Where we are now and where we are headed 2008-09...

During the Fall/Spring 2008-09 we will be at the
University of Michigan TCAUP (link). Jason Johnson will be serving as the Oberdick Research Fellow, and Nataly Gattegno will be the Muschenheim Fellow. During the Summer of 2009 we will serve as the 2008-09 New York Prize Fellows at the Van Alen Institute in New York (link) working on our Aurora interactive installation.

* All 2008/09 updates will be published here:

Monday, July 07, 2008

2008 Digitalis Robot

The 2008 Digitalis Robot was produced by architecture Prof. Jason Johnson and music Prof. Matthew Burtner with assistance from Joy Wang, Megan Manion and Troy Rogers -- plus the Interactive Media Research Group [IMRG] and ITC at UVa. [more info, images and video coming soon.] On April 4th, 2008 our robot responded to real-time information from over 300 wireless laptops at the UVa amphitheater ... a world record perhaps?? check back soon to find out ....

Monday, May 05, 2008

Robotic Ecologies 2008 Opening

Text from an article published in the Daily Progress: May 5, 2008 (By Jeremy Borden)

Inch a little closer and the robot will come toward you, too. Then it might even have something to say.
University of Virginia students on Sunday displayed moving, blinking, music-making robots, a culmination of a course that produced non-humanoid automata that filled gallery space at the School of Architecture. Some there suggested that the interdisciplinary approach in the “Robotic Ecologies 2008” class provides a window into the future.
Architecture, music, engineering and computer science students collaborated in small groups to create what they called “sonic spatial” instruments. For example, one of the instruments, called “Medusa,” would create drum-like sounds after its long tentacles were flicked. One tentacle would activate another tentacle nearby, and flashing lights corresponded as drum-like beats reverberated throughout. Other robots relied on motion and infrared sensors, and would respond with notes to touch or even proximity.
Jason Johnson, the UVa architecture professor who headed the class of 15 that produced the three robots in just a semester of work, said he wanted to combine students from seemingly disparate fields of study “and see what [happened].”
“The critical part was to get these guys to talk,” Johnson said. What emerged, he said, provides a window into a future that combines disciplines and makes the virtual a reality.
One such “cultural artifact” is Apple’s iPhone, he said. The phone, Johnson said, combines audio, visual and sensory items in a “beautiful object.” Two engineers sitting down to solve a problem wouldn’t have come up with it, Johnson said.
Students said the robots are more than just physical things that respond to simple computer programs. Yuri Spitsyn, a doctoral candidate in music, said the robots provide a new look at the idea of our surroundings. Though the students’ robots are just small prototypes, similar designs could be produced on a much larger scale to create a more immersive experience.
“For me, it’s more like an environment,” Spitsyn said.
Cammy Brothers, a UVa professor who teaches renaissance architecture, was impressed with how the disciplines gelled.
“It’s stretching each of the disciplines,” Brothers said. “They occupy this new category of object that’s between architecture and instrument. The point is that architecture now is barely engaging movement or robotics. The idea of sensitivity … responsiveness and robotics has a lot of potential.”

[Correction Note from Jason: Unfortunately this article does not mention that the seminar was co-taught with Prof. Matthew Burtner and we were assisted greatly by our T.A. Troy Rogers from the VCCM.]

Link to the Article: "Music of the Machines: Students Display Harmonic Robots"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

2008 R-Eco Project Descriptions

Click on the image to enlarge the project descriptions for the EXSO, Medusa, Panta Rhei and RAVE projects.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Digitalis Festival 2008

The Digitalis Festival is tonight (4/30) from 8-10pm at the UVa Amphitheater. Come see our interactive robotic maestro channel an orchestra of over 500 wireless laptops. Shape changing LED auroras will spotlight participants as they produce an emergent sonic spatial environment. Our phototropic beacon features the world's first photovoltaic mohawk that searches out sunlight during the day and then playfully transmits pulses of light and sound at night.

The Digitalis Festival is a joint production of the Virginia Center for Computer Music (VCCM), UVa's Interactive Media Research Group (IMRG) and UVa's ITC. Interactive Maestro by Prof. Jason Johnson, Prof. Matthew Burtner in collaboration with the VCCM, IMRG, UVa School of Architecture, Future Cities Lab LLC, the Robotic Ecologies Lab and the MICE Project. Project assistance by Joy Wang, Megan Manion and Troy Rogers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Deux Ex Machina 1

We are now working day and night to complete our latest three robotic prototypes for the deadline next week. The students have been pushing hard to refine and integrate their ideas into fully functioning interactive sonic-spatial assemblies. The date and time of our opening show will be announced soon. My "Deux Ex Machina" (in collaboration with Matthew Burtner and the IMRG - Interactive Media Research Group) will be released at this year's "Digitalis Festival" on April 30th. The robot will be directing (or be directed by?) a symphonic scale (200+) laptop LAN MICE orchestra . There will be a live webcast provided by UVa's ITC. Check back for details. On May 20th I will also be presenting the project at the New Horizons Conference. The keynote speaker will be Ben Fry (co-author of the amazing Processing programming environment.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bill Fontana Workshop 2008

We are thrilled to be working with internationally renowned sound artist Bill Fontana this week in the Robotic Ecologies seminar. He will be working with the students on their projects on Thursday (3/27/08) and then giving the Dean's Forum public lecture "Acoustic Simultaneity and the Sculpture of Sound" at 5pm on Friday in the School of Architecture. Fontana has worked on major sound installations including the Harmonic Bridge (in association the Tate Modern London 2006), Pigeon Soundings (at the Kolumbia Museum in Cologne 2007) and his Panoramic Echoes project (New York 2007). A short clip from Fontana's artist statement: "From the late 90”s until the present my projects have explored hybrid listening technologies of acoustic microphones, underwater sensors (hydrophones) and structural/material sensors (accelerometers). I have also realized and am developing projects that access live seismic networks to explore the sound energy of ocean waves, traveling long distances underground." Also check out Peter Traub's interview with Bill Fontana.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Emergent Effects Workshop 2008

The Robotic Ecologies Emergent Effects Workshop 2008 is running during the next two weeks from Jan 30 to Feb 13, 2008. The group will be meeting Wednesday nights from 7:00 - 10:00pm Campbell Hall Exhibition Room C. We will be hosting a series of electronics sessions including an intro to solar driven robotics led by Troy Rogers on Feb 6. Final prototypes will be presented on Feb 13.

From the workshop handout: Emergent behaviors are rendered visible when a small number of self-organizing agents interact in simple ways to produce complex patterns or effects. A familiar example is the collective swarming behavior of starlings: individual birds, with no top-down directive, follow simple rules to form extraordinary shape changing patterns in the sky. Many other dynamic processes in the material world, from bees to flowing metals to entire cities, can be explained using emergence theory.

The aim of the workshop is to invent and build small-scale machines that are capable of generating and registering these emergent effects. During this process we will be developing and situating small performative machines capable of generating, interacting and registering their own emergent patterns over time. Unlike typically linear processes of cause and effect, you will propagate wild forms of expression – dynamic marks, traces, notations and the like – that will emerge from the interplay of these synthetic modes, materials, and mediums with their environment.

An exotic host of base materials, electronics and mechanisms will be provided. If necessary, during the week you should also pillage the likes of the second-hand shops, toy stores, hardware stores, the recycling bins, the garbage, etc. There is no need to expend lavish amounts of capital – be inventive!

Pictured Above:
A photograph of an sound-material experiment by Hans Jenny - Spores of moss (lycopodium) form emergent clusters that rotate around their own axis, while the larger collection of clusters rotates around the central axis of the plate.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Robotic Ecologies Seminar and Workshop 2008

The 2008 "Robotic Ecologies" spring seminar and workshop kicked off last night. This semester 12 students from architecture and engineering will be collaborating with 6 PhD. students from UVa’s Virginia Center for Computer Music (VCCM). The seminar will meet jointly with Professor Matthew Burtner's seminar "Emergent Interactive Structures in Music". The students will be collaborating on the design and fabrication of "performative spatial and acoustic instruments that sense, compute and interact to/with emergent atmospheric inputs." This semester the seminar will meet in Campbell Hall's super high-tech IATH Viz Lab (Ex. C) and workshops will take place in the our new dedicated space within the CNC Fabrication Lab.

PICTURED ABOVE > Last night, after some brief introductions, the seminar attended a fascinating performance by the Autonomous String Performing Instrument at The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative in Belmont. The A.S.P.I. was created by Troy Rogers, Scott Barton and Steven Kemper.
Thanks also to Peter Traub for introducing us to his ItSpace sound and social networking installation.
Photo Above: The creators of the A.S.P.I. bot > Scott Barton (left), Troy Rogers (right), and Steven Kemper (not shown) - photo by M.Maki.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Visions of the Future (or just sexy versions of the recent past?)

The top four images are some well-known utopian/dystopian visions for how technology and the physical realm might co-exist in the future. These projects were a response to the political, ecological and social conditions of their time. Superstudio (continuous, pervasive, ubiquitous, free, minimal, open, meditative, formless, networked and infinite), Archigram (machinic, plugged-in, gadget-driven, superstructure enabled, socialist high-tech, episodic, pop), Dr. Strangelove's techno-bunker (bunkered, exclusive, clandestine, inbred, disconnected, paranoid, virtual), Buckminster Fuller's project for New York (isolated, protected, exclusive, hub, static, conditioned, inter-dependent, disconnected).

The bottom four images were also discussed in the seminar last night. They are examples of contemporary projects that suggest an entirely new set of ideas that might guide the future of our cities and landscapes. Descriptive words that were used to describe these projects were: Soft, Intelligent, Indeterminate, Networked, Interactive, Emergent, Atmospheric, Responsive, Bio-mimetic, Real-time, Information-driven, Sustainable, Smart, Metabolic ... How will these various ideas organize themselves to define our future physical environments? What are the politics underlying their potential manifestation both physically, ecologically and socially? (credits: watanabe japan, obuchi uk, decoi usa, eth zurich)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

crank my eco-hub (2108 City of the Future)

On Jan 15th we presented our finalist entry for the '08 History Channel "2108 City of the Future Competition". The event was held at Union Station in Washington DC. For more information on our collaborative team and project click here: GROW:DC. Our project received great coverage in articles by the Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR) and UVa Today.