Robot Art Lessons

HandDetailIf you know me or you read my blog, then you know that: I LUV ROBOTS.

I’m not a mechanical engineer, I’m not a robot builder, I’ve never written software for EPROMS, and I probably wouldn’t know what I was looking at on a LabView screen to save my life.

But, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by the possibilities of robots.

(In fact, I think I’ll save a deeper exploration of the “Why?” for this love of robots for a future post… but at its core it has more to do with a personal belief that a deeper understanding of robotics and other forms of AI or “artificial life” is in fact a deeper search for our own humanity, not unlike the perspective recently shared by Jaron Lanier in a New York Times Op-Ed piece.)

This intense interest in robotics is why I regularly follow a handful of publications and blogs on the subject.

And, when I speak of robots, I’m not just referring to the cute little Lego-toy or cuddly animal ones, like Paro.  I’m also talking about the bizarre ones, like your garden trellis gone-wild-and-suddenly-climbing-the-side-of-your-house.

And the semi-scary ones, like the severed limb of a Transformer playing catch with your cell phone in the video above.

In a way, robotics – which may seem at first glance to be a domain purely of the left-brained, hard science type – is a field where right-brained creativity has a chance to run amok. No doubt, this is among the reasons for the explosive popularity of the Maker Faire phenomenon of recent years.

It’s also a reason why the South-by-Southwest Interactive (or SXSWi) panel proposal I’m part of for 2011 is themed “Robot Art Lessons.”

The panel proposal was inspired by a year-long correspondence with my (former-nGenera) colleague, Alan Majer. Alan left nGenera before I did, to pursue his dreams, principal among them, work on multiple dimensions of robotics. You can follow his work on his GoodRobot wiki.

Earlier this year, Alan did a show of his work at Toronto-area museum. You can view a number of the pieces in the installation on Flickr.

We thought it would be fun and informative to combine Alan’s work and research with my own interest in robotics, visual arts, and the intrigue of the creative process in general – be it for business, government, products, education, whatever. And it seemed to us that SXSWi would be a premier venue with an audience open-minded enough to join us for a conversation about what you get when you “glom together” fine arts and hard science.

If you count yourself as a potential member of this audience – whether you’ll be attending SXSWi or NOT – please do Alan, me, and our to-be-named panelists a great favor and vote for “Robot Art Lessons” to be included in the Southby program for 2011.

The PanelPicker process is a critically important part of the Southby planning process and, thus, we need your VOTE. We would really, REALLY appreciate it. Thanks!