Arduino, openFrameworks, Processing
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Feedback Machines – (Mis-)using technology + non-linear behavioural systems

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Created at the Köln International School of Design (short-term project – 2 weeks) and supervised by Prof. Andreas Muxel, Feedback Machines is a group student project that explores the concept of feedback loops – one of the main principles in the control and regulation of autonomous machines. It is both an attempt to introduce students to physical computing as well as provide a perspective on the complex topic through experimental explorations.

The theory of control and regulation through feedback loops has its roots in cybernetics. Here information of the output and environment is feed back into the system to take control. In the project the students were asked to develop simple feedback systems, by (mis-)using existing technologies in combination with analog material to create non-linear behaving systems. In a hands-on approach various autonomous explorations were designed.

“Parasite Infinite-Loop Machine” re-uses the energy of an automatic sliding door to put the ready-made system in an infinite loop. The project acts as a mechanic parasite intervening a semi-public space.

“Leedback“ consists of two entities each equipped by a webcam and a LED display both trying to imitate its respective partner. Due to glitches, camera automatics as well as misinterpretations they get stuck in an endless loop of feedback with reoccurring patterns and small differences.

The self-driving aural mobile “Impetus & Inertia” provides an interplay of impulse and idleness. Every time metallic bars touch each other a sound is generated and three motors get a direct feedback to give the mobile a gentle push again.

Based on the principle of the Braitenberg Vehicle “Artificial Emotions” demonstrates emergent behavior of two vehicles defined by a simple hardwired logic. Through different stimulus and response various interactions with a light bulb are generated.

The fully automatized system “Chinese Whispers” intra-communicates based on Google Translate. An initial text is read by a computer using a text-to-speech engine and is re-interpreted again by the same machine through speech recognition. With each iteration we learn more about the (mis-)interpretation of the artificial translator.

“HARDWIRED” questions our continuing efforts to get control of nature and living organisms. In an experimental setup the movement of waterfleas is stimulated with an overhead projector using different light patterns.

For the full list of projects and additional documentation, please see the links below.

Project PageKöln International School of Design

Participants: Arturo Vélez Sánchez, Johannes Wilhelm Bier, Christoph Schnedler, Cheng-Chieh Tsai, Lukas Höh, Holly Martin Bates, Julia Alfeo, Sascha Haus, Hortense Tollu