Project presentations on the website

Every project supported by Gebert Rüf Stiftung is made accessible with a web presentation that informs about the core data of the project. With this public presentation, the foundation publishes the funding results achieved and contributes to the communication of science to society.


PATHOS – Poetic Animatronics Through Hands on Systems


Für den Inhalt der Angaben zeichnet die Projektleitung verantwortlich.


Dieses von der Gebert Rüf Stiftung geförderte Projekt wird von folgenden weiteren Projektpartnern mitgetragen: NTB Hochschule für Technik Buchs, EMS Institut für Entwicklung mechatronischer Systeme & INF Institut für Ingenieurinformatik; Pors & Rao Studio, Bangalore, India; Shuttleworth Foundation

Project data

  • Project no: GRS-056/14 
  • Amount of funding: CHF 300000 
  • Approved: 23.01.2015 
  • Duration: 05.2015 - 08.2017 
  • Area of activity:  Scientainment, seit 2013

Project management

Project description

The aim of the project was to provide artists with an animatronic framework tailored for poetic expression in motion-based artworks and interfaces. ‘Poetic’ or ‘emotive’ motion refer to a nuance of control that can engage the artist and the viewer aesthetically and emotionally. The language of movement is very rich and intuitively perceived, but the current interfaces and physical technologies used to speak it are crude, complex to control and largely inaccessible. Examples of fine motion control could be: imitating a subtle change in body posture, a mood change in a face, a leaf in the wind, an object falling under water or the way speed and distance make a landscape move. The objective might be very naturalistic movement or stylized cartoonish gestures depending on the artistic vision, but the precision of language depends on the flexibility of the technology and the degree of control the artist has over it. PATHOS intends to provide this control along with a system of specially designed and selected actuation and sensor mechanisms. The final demonstration of the range of the PATHOS platform is planned through a series of 4-6 artworks of the Indo-Danish art duo Pors & Rao, culminating in an exhibition for the public.

What is special about the project?

Just as a puppet show is most immersive when the puppeteer is forgotten, it is central to the animatronic expression of PATHOS that the technology disappears from the viewer’s awareness. Only at that moment can the animated object appear truly alive, as opposed to a mere ‘robotic’ or symbolic reference to an emotive or life-like gesture. Animatronics should adapt to the vision of the artist, not the other way around. Since motion and kinematics are the domain of Science, and animation and emotion the domain of Art; it is essential that the two are combined intelligently to develop the field of animatronic expression. The intent of this project lies in developing a flexible environment that allows for simple and efficient methods of moving physical objects in natural, nuanced or emotive ways, almost silently and built with cost efficiency in mind. This environment will consist of modules or building blocks of mechanical, control, sensor and software units that can be seamlessly combined, re-configured and adapted to suit the constraints of the artist’s vision.


The project was able to realise and demonstrate the one complete cycle of research lab to public engagement. Through the motion and control modules developed in PATHOS, artists Pors & Rao were able to realise an ambitious public art installation Someone’s Coming!, at the Setouchi Triennale 2016, in Japan. This exhibition, located in a rural environment was spread over a period of 9 months, and operated by local volunteers who are not adept with technology. This was a live test environment for the nuanced, life-like expression, robustness and reliability factors as well as heavy technology simply, inconspicuously packaged. The modules developed for this work along with new tools, could then be utilised to produce a series of different artworks.



Persons involved in the project

Prof. Einar Nielsen, project leader
Claudia Visentin, NTB Buchs
Aparna Rao & Soren Pors, Pors and Rao Studios

Last update to this project presentation  17.03.2022