Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Ad!dict Inspiration Book

The Enactive Torch, is being featured in a book: 'Ad!dict Inspiration' book #29: 'in.tangiable.scape.s'

Here is the blurb: Addictlab's 29th Inspiration book comes out next week! Called In.Tangible.Scape.s, it's about emerging technologies and the vision of creative people from all over the world on that topic. Supported by IMEC, and collaborations from MOMA NY, Design Incubator centre Singapore, Domus Academy Italy, and many more...

The book is a beautifully presented collection of some very interesting and eclectic work across creative design, fashion and technology and we are very pleased to be included. Click here to preview the book (the article is on page 71 of the electronic preview or page 69 of the book).

Friday, 19 September 2008

Canvas Robot Video

Here is a short video of the Canvas Robot.

I hope to put something better up (where the traces are visible) in the near future.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Canvas Robot at the Watershed

Demo-ed my drawing robot (which has yet to be named) at the Creative Technology Network's ‘Real Robots’ event at the Watershed in Bristol.

The main theme of the event was the Heart Robot project though members BRL were invited to bring along a robotic prop as a conversation starter.

I used the opportunity to demonstrate my recently completed canvas robot prototype. The robot uses a light source manipulated by a simple robot to draw fading patterns onto a photo-luminescent canvas. The Robot and canvas are fully self contained so can (and are usually) hung on a wall like a regular picture. The Robot is shown to the right of the photograph below.

The robot, and the fading images it produces can be interpreted in a number of ways though the transience of symbols is the main theme. In particular this robot relates to the graffiti trend of tagging where writers cover an urban landscape in hastily drawn / written tag. These tags are usually illegible and rarely persist in the memory.
This was my first experience of presenting work that is purely aesthetic and the reception was mixed. Some attendees seemed to be disappointed by the simplicity of the device while others described the machine as 'beautiful'.

Acknowledgement must be made to Peter Bennett, Richard Crouch and the rest of the 2003 undergrad swarm robot project at Reading Uni who used light to draw on a glow in the dark surface years before I built this project.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Venus Fly Trap Timelaps

Bought a small venus fly trap awhile back and was amazed at how incredibly fast it seemed to grow. Set up a camera to take a photo every 20 minutes over 15 days and this is the animated result.

The two tendrils at the end of the video also grew in mouths but over a much longer period of time (they have still not opened 20 days after I finished shooting the above video).

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Poster Competiton

Presented my PhD work (which is mostly conceptual at this stage) at a showcase of current research at University of Bristol's faculty of engineering. The judges were suitably impressed and awarded me 2nd prize for my efforts (not bad considering there were 65 competitors from all branches of engineering and computer science).

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Elumotion Arm

Started work a few weeks ago on controlling an anthropomorphic upper limb manufactured by Elumotion. At the moment I'm just using it as a hardware test bed in anticipation of working on a full humanoid torso however the anthropomorphic nature of the device means that certain motions can make you feel rather uneasy. This is the Uncanny Valley principle in action as one could say the arm looks like part of a 'moving corpse'.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Insect Braitenberg Vehicle

A few days ago I observed an insect behaving like a simple mobile robot (Braitenberg vehicle) with a line-avoiding algorithm. I ran and got my camera and the video below is the result.

Obviously Braitenberg designed his thought-experiment vehicles with insect behaviors in mind, a light stimulus to the right eye drives the left locomotor (wing / set of legs) to result in a moth that is attracted to light (or a 'photovore' in the case of the robotic vehicles).

By simple modification of this algorithm you can produce a creature that prefers darkness and can be made to follow a dark line on a light background (the dark line reflects less light into its sensors).

This insect appeared to be avoiding dark lines which makes sense as insects like light. But do insects really apply these rules to their perception of the environment on such a local level? The geek in me cries out for formalised experiments!

Unfortunately the best example (where it stayed in a circle for around 20 seconds) isn't on film (as it was what inspired me to get the camera).

It has crossed my mind that perhaps it doesn't like wet ink... some of the occasions where the insect stays in a circle for a while might disprove this but then it walks over some of the older lines quite happily.

I'd be very interested to hear people's opinions about this video...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Ad in a book (new and used)

Have just discovered that one of my papers has been published in a book available from Amazon for $180 -$539 (here is the link). The editor was the chair at a conference on Augmented Cognition that I presented at in 2005.

Here is the blurb:

"Bringing together a comprehensive and diverse collection of research, theory, and thought, this volume builds a foundation for the new field of Augmented Cognition research and development. The first section introduces general Augmented Cognition methods and techniques, including physiological and neurophysiological measures such as EEG and fNIR; adaptive techniques; and sensors and algorithms for cognitive state estimation. The second section discusses Augmented Cognition applications such as simulation and training, intent-driven user interfaces, closed-loop command and control systems, then goes on to explore lessons learned to date, and future directions in Augmented Cognition-enabled HCI."

Monday, 21 April 2008


Attended a very interesting meeting regarding a new EPSRC funded robotics outreach project. At the meeting were some Hollywood animatronics guys who among other things were responsible for the ABC-Warrior (below) from Judge Dread and the robot (Robbie?) from Lost in Space.

Though my work on human motion deals with asthetics to some degree it is quite a new twist to think of robots as only having to look good on camera. That requirement aside these guys are great at what they do (though I think the massive budgets help somewhat!).

Thursday, 10 April 2008

BRL Project Description

A description of my PhD research project has been added to the Bristol Robotics Lab project pages website.

I like to keep this blog (mostly) seperated from my PhD so head to 'ANDy' to read about what I'm lucky enough to get paid to work on.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Keyboard Hack

Chopped up a broken M-Audio Keystation USB keyboard to make an effects box.

The keyboard had been dumped at the local tip and after taking it home I discovered it was because the keys didn't work. The pitch, modulation and volume controls all provided midi signals though and make a nice physical interface for music software. Much more enjoyable that moving sliders around with a mouse. Thanks to Pete for software advice.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Test_Lab Presentation Online

Tom's talk on the Enactive Torch at Test_Lab (see previous post) has been put online as a streaming video. Here is the link: http://live.v2.nl/multimodel.ram

Tom starts talking at arond 2:04:40 and I'm once again described as a 'mad scientist'...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


Tomorrow the Enactive Torch is going to be demonstrated at V2 Test_Lab in Rotterdam by my collegue Tom Froese.

Here's a blurb for the event from V2:

'Test_Lab: Multimodal will demonstrate and discuss new methods and technologies to stimulate senses that are not commonly incorporated in artistic concepts, and will introduce innovative ways to integrate sensory experiences in art and media. In doing so, Test_Lab: Multimodal reveals the obstacles faced, and achievements made, in contemporary aRt&D that aims to enhance the sensorial richness of art and media experiences in (technologically) integrated ways.'

Unfortunately commitments to my PhD and funding issues means that I won't be attending this event.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Switch Experiments

Scratched at a jam session organised by members of Skyline Dossier a reading-based band that I highly recommend.

Still trying to figure out how to get good sound out of a turntable in a practice room. As usual feedback and reverb raised their unwanted heads.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Haptic Torch PCBs

A small run of Haptic Torch PCBs have been produced for student projects at Reading University. The Haptic Torch was my undergraduate final year project and precursor to the Enactive torch.

Apologies for the poor photograph, my camera phone is a little dated...

Friday, 1 February 2008

Clifton Cathedral

Shot this timelapse footage of Clifton Cathedral in Bristol. Am still experimenting with timelapse but think I'm gradually getting the hang of it.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Posture & Balance Study

Recently returned from a short course on the study of Posture and Balance in humans. Gave me some good ideas about how to generate a few rules in order to improve movement in robots.

The course was held at the University of Birmingham (which has a very nice campus) in the Department of Psychology. Interesting, as once again I see my research permeating more disciplines.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Masque of the Red Death

1st post of 2009!

During the winter holidays I went to see the Punchdrunk theatre company's promenade performance piece 'The Masque of the Red Death'. Truely incredible. A theatre piece where the audience is free to roam numerous creepy in macabre rooms in Battersea Arts Centre (too many to explore in a single evening) while actors appear and dissappear, moving through the crowd as if they weren't there. On entry you are given a beaked plauge mask and told not to speak, the effect is brilliant as you find yourself in a room filled with other anomous 'ghosts' that only a disturbed character can see. Get tickets if you can. Very inspirational.