Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in |

Robotics and interactive art have historically tended to privilege visual and auditory processing over less researched areas of tactile analysis and haptics, yet social robotics today requires increasingly intimate gestural interaction, particularly in medical and gerontological assistive technologies contexts. The Blind Robot challenges our sense of touch and machine contact: our generally guarded upper body and facial regions are investigated by kinematic software driven robotic hands, whose delicate palpations evoke those of a blind person seeking to recognise a visitor. Combining semi-autonomous behaviours and remote supervision, the work references von Kempelen’s 18th century Chess Player “automat” with its hidden human player, while emphasising the affective dimensions of human-machine contact, and possible emergence of feelings of empathy, trust, and new kinds of sensuality. The artifact’s mechanistic, metallic allure suggests goal-driven precision instrumentation, in contrast to its sightless, tentative probing that elicits sympathy and curiosity. The Blind Robot stages subtle use of hard- and software with compelling theatricality and uncannily sensitive response to its visitors, making us wonder about how to humanly stay in touch.