Remote Materialities – Future scenographies of our coexistence with robotic devices

Created by the students at the Zurich University of the Arts, ‘Remote Materialities’ module and to be presented at the upcoming Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, ‘Remote Materialities’ explores the future scenographies of our coexistence with robotic devices.

Robotic devices are leaving their industrial habitats and entering natural or other built environments. How do we create and interact with and within the spaces shared by these new materialities and hidden agencies? How do such devices help or confuse the topic of remoteness in the post-pandemic world? As an interface between digital and physical, robotic arms are our engines of inquiry for future scenarios of materiality, perception and living.

The “Remote Materialities” course resulted in four scenographies, ranging from infinite sand dunes and juxtapositions of the technical and ephemeral, to digitally augmented contexts with dystopian undertones and futuristic facilities based on a gamified draconianism. The projects explored varied natures of human-machine relationships; leaving the arm fully autonomous, in direct-control or an ambiguous state without clear human or machine primacy. They might, as such, develop their own ecosystems or become obsolete, remain a friendly extension of a human gesture or turn this gesture into a threat. The absence of a human in the setup brings an additional layer of ambiguity to those already remote scenographies.

The course was attended by the 4th-semester students from Interaction Design, Industrial Design, Visual Communication, Trends & Identity and Game Design at the Zurich University of the Arts in February 2021 as an Interdisciplinary Practice Module. All course content was taught online via zoom. Students developed their final project outcomes with U-arm robotic units controlled by both native (Blockly) and custom (processing) code with camera-based interactions. 

Project Page | Interaction Design at ZHdK

Lecturers: Luke Franzke, Maria Smigielska & Lisa Ochsenbein
Guest lecturers: dr. James Bern, dr. Mihye An & Emmanuelle Chiappone- Piriou
Students: Felix Brunold, Aathmigan Jegatheeswaran, Tim Oechslin, Nora Waldispuehl, Dimitris Giannoulas, Lino Fischer, Mai Watanabe, Chanel Liang, Kilian Ettlinger, Meret Jans, Samuel Marti, Manuel Wirth and Ramona Rüttimann

Post Perceptive Spaces: Felix Brunold, Aathmigan Jegatheeswaran, Tim Oechslin and Nora Waldispuehl
Melting Dependencies: Chanel Liang, Kilian Ettlinger and Meret Jans
Black Box: Dimitris Giannoulas, Lino Fischer and Mai Watanabe
interPhaZe Samuel Marti: Manuel Wirth and Ramona Rüttimann


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