[Photo: S.T. Heizmann]
What looks like a time-lapse recording of bioluminescent critters roaming the deep sea floor is in fact a swarm of 9 autonomous UV light emitting robots inhabiting a 1 x 2 meter phosphorescent surface. Created by Mey Lean Kronemann, a Berlin-based media artist with an interest in robotics, these lumiBots (2010-2011) tirelessly trace the fading trails of their peers. An endless pursuit that, much like a computational drawing machine, generates glowing patterns of visual complexity out of a simple system.
Each lumiBot, designed to be as inexpensive and basic as possible, is equipped with an Arduino micro-controller, two light sensors, two click switches for collision detection and a UV LED that activates the glow-in-the-dark sheet. Its movement – not pre-programmed nor predictable – is based on two simple rules: follow the light (the brighter the better) and turn after collision. This efficient little set-up can trigger interesting results and surprisingly emotional reactions. Exhibited at a number of international festivals, delighted audiences saw lumiBots not only follow existing paths, but refine them, take short-cuts or wander off exploring. “People connect with the lumiBots right away,” says Mey in a Skype chat. “Their movement suggests life, life suggests emotions.” Easily confused by the light of an opening door, a bright iPhone screen or a camera flash, lumiBots will stir as if alarmed. “Maybe it’s their helplessness that makes them so likeable. People find them cute, talk to them and even make out individuals. One might appear to be thinking, another one comes off stubborn, two others seem to feel attached to one another.” And really, every now and then two lumiBots engage in a spinning dance, or inseparably continue their journey together after a rough collision.
Mey’s fascination with emergence, swarms, and artificial life forms was already evident in her 2006 interactive floor projection schüchterne lichter (timid lights) and it continues to spawn. Her newest species: Klackerlaken (clanking bugs), a swarm of buzzing and glowing insect-like vibrobots made of a cellphone motor, an LED and a battery, all taped to a bottle cap. Developed for a maker workshop for kids at Lab30′s Kunstlabor event in Augsburg (October 2011), Mey’s Klackerlaken will also infest Berlin’s c-base as part of the Transmediale satellite Dorkbot event on January 30th. Go catch some!
Posted on: 07/01/2012