Looking Outwards Arduino

Plantas Nomadas (Nomadic Plants) by Gilberto Esparza, 2011.

Plantas Nomadas is an artifical lifeform that is powered by solar and microbial fuel cells. It moves around with multiple legs and recharges its energy supply by slurping up bacteria-rich polluted water in nearby ponds. From an engineering standpoint, I found this piece to be impressive due to its clever use of self-recharging energy supply; longetivity of power is a severe limiting factor in the development of modern robotics, and most environment-friendly power sources simply do not provide enough juice to get larger machines moving. From an artistic standpoint, the robot truly is alive – it needs to eat to survive, it actively seeks new sources of food, and it directly affects the environment around it in an automated fashion.

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/18853622

Official Site: http://plantasnomadas.com/

The Abovemarine by Adam Ben-Dror.

The AboveMarine is a above-water omnidirectional rover base that is controlled by the position of a brightly colored fish in a glass bowl. The fish simply positions itself in the direction it wants the machine to go, and a camera sitting at the top of the fishbowl detects the position of the fish using color tracking, and the rover moves in that direction. I thought this piece was funny – many humans may believe they are the only animals capable of controlling vehicles for travel in forbidding environments, but the Abovemarine is evidence of the contrary: it appears as though fish can control Abovemarines just as well as humans can control submarines. Whether the fish can control the device in an intelligent fashion showing intent of traveling to a particular destination is a story for another time.

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/104899925

inFORM by MIT Tangible Media Group.

The inFORM project is a physical display platform that records depth data from a Kinect and transforms it into a real-life 3 dimensional physical display of the recorded depth by controlling the positions of array of solenoids. The resulting dislay can also physically move small objects on its bed without much difficulty. It is an interesting concept for a 3D depth display without having to wear any kind of head gear, but I think it still kind of lies in the realm of 2.5D, rather than full 3D. The range of the length and width is great, but the depth feels somewhat flat in respect. In addition, the fact that there is no way to show objects that have side-depth rather than top-depth is somewhat disappointing, but even so, it is a interesting device that shows good execution of a novel concept.

Vimeo: http://tangible.media.mit.edu/project/inform/

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