When I began studying at Reykjavik University, I did concept art for an intelligent being whose body was a robotic arm attached to a wall. The project was later superseded by ideas for virtual humanoids, for which I then designed the Superhumanoid. Which is an awesome project, but I’d fallen in love with the concept of a robotic-arm-creature and have since been fascinated by similar designs (love what you can’t have, eh?). AUR is one of those designs:
Created by Guy Hoffman as part of his Ph.D thesis on human-robot communication fluency, embodiment, and nonverbal behavior. It’s a robotic arm (5 degrees of freedom) with a mounted light that can change colors. As described by the author, the project is:
[...] aimed to evoke a personal relationship with the human partner without resorting to creature-like features such as eyes, limbs, or a mouth. By retaining the lamp’s “objectness”, I hope to explore the relationship that can be maintained between a human and an object through abstract gestures and nonverbal behavior alone.
What fascinates me most about the design is the retina of the lamp. It resembles a diaphragm shutter — a mechanism that’s undeniably awesome no matter the context.
You can see AUR in action in the video below. Notice the shutter when AUR switches to red-lighting to bring the labworker’s attention to an object on the table. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find much technical info on what underlying sensors and software are used to control him. The main website mentions that his movements are partially authored in a 3D animation system, but doesn’t specify to what extent.
It’s interesting how much meaning a simple thing like change of color can channel. When he turned and switched to red I instantly got the feeling he wanted something, and after having seen him make a move on his own (ie. not only following the cue of the labworker), it suddenly felt like he was eager and enthused over the work he was observing.
AUR’s ability for expression was put to good use recently when he co-starred with humans in a play last May, staged by MIT’s Dramashop (videos and info).
Links and References
- AUR Main Website
- Images taken by Guy Hoffman
- Special mention, this appears on Hoffman’s site: “this is the year 2007, but there’s nothing copyrighted here” (awesome)