The Gebert Rüf Stiftung supports a two year research lab at Wyss Zurich, allowing artist duo Pors & Rao to pursue a language of nuanced expression through physical movement. PATHOS (Poetic Animatronics Through Hands-On Systems) is a set of tools developed to realise a high degree of resolution in robotic animation and responsive behaviors. It is rooted in the technical difficulties encountered by the artists in crafting a language of affective motion and response. The project specifically explores the potential of lifelike animatronics to suggest complex inner states in inanimate objects.The toolkit itself consists of a set of mechatronic modules and software interfaces that are reliable and easy to use. Being nested within Wyss Zurich enables the project to fuse world class engineering research with artistic compulsions and intent. By providing a high degree of control to the non-engineer, PATHOS aims to enable animatronics to become a more accessible, spontaneous and personal medium of expression that can also exist within the public domain. All tools and techniques developed will be demonstrated through a series of Pors & Rao artworks involving performative movement and response patterns; also planned for public exhibition.
What is special about the project?
The main focus of the project is twofold. The first is to enable access to the finer technical parameters of creating physical animation. For example, these can be used to imbibe an object with a high degree of nuance in body language that can allude to complex inner states. For this language to exist in the world, control of fine nuance is needed and this project provides that. The approach is to use personal subjectivity, bringing in elements of individual signatures, exaggeration, and caricature, to capture a complexity in expression that has rarely been seen or used in robotics. These may include suggesting emotions, such as curiosity, anxiety, playfulness, and so on, but also combined with humour, or irony. In this way, PATHOS differentiates itself from the largely two current developments in animatronics expressions: one being realism (exact mimicry of human appearance or movement is key) and the other being a kind of emoticon approach (use of binary, symbolic gestures). This project does not need to rely on anthropomorphic forms; any object or geometric shape can be animated to express a ‘consciousness’. The second key goal is captured in the project’s adage ‘eliminate the technology, eliminate the engineer’. This highlights a key intention to remove the complexity of technology and engineering from the process and allow anyone to directly and intuitively delve into the natural, direct process of animation.
We were able to successfully demonstrate two moving artworks, one with anthropomorphic expressions, Pygmies, and the other with environmental expressions, Gust of Wind; also making the bridge from creating in an R&D lab into a public environment. Both artworks along with the first PATHOS mechatronics modules and early interface were developed in a very short period of 3 months, indicating the feasibility of personalised deployment of motion control with the right tools and high level decisions in place. This not only brought further opportunities and collaborations, but also allowed us to sharpen the blueprint of the PATHOS system and to explore and develop further research and industry partnerships.
On the technical side, we developed a custom electronics board that can be used as a master control unit for the behavior and motions of an artwork, and a further two boards that can be used as slave control units for the fine motion control of a single actuator (for large and small electric motors, respectively).
None at the time
Persons involved in the project
, Artist in Residence Wyss Zurich, Pors & Rao India, project leaderSøren Pors
, Pors & Rao, India & Artist in Residence, Wyss Zurich, PATHOS Artistic DirectorDr. Philipp Reist
, PATHOS Lead Systems Engineer, Wyss ZurichStefan Bertschi
, Project Resource and Management Guide, Wyss Robotics Platform, Wyss Zurich
Benoit Dubath, Swissnex III Program Intern, Masters of Science in Robotics, Systems & Control, ETHZ
Stefanie Nacht, Swissnex III Program Intern, Masters of Science in Robotics, Systems & Control, ETHZ
Last update to this project presentation 27.10.2022