Published by Anne-Florence Neveu at 2021-06-26 09:05

Is this Life? / Process update

Prototypes are fresh out of the oven!

Is this Life?

Cross-european collaboration

We have been working with Hrvoje Hiršl on his installation for a while now, things are starting to come together! For this technically challenging installation, we have been collaborating with LARICS Lab at the University of Zagreb. They are working out the software which includes a flocking algorithm and the software for the control and localisation of the robots. In the meantime, we at TU Delft are developing the hardware: the robotic part of the installation. The robot spheres will move around the space by executing the algorithm developed by LARICS Lab. More on the algorithm in a later post.

This is the first batch of prototypes, the next iteration of robots will have several improvements: sturdier construction, better connectors for all the components, more durable material for the wheels etc.
At the moment, our priority is finalising the outer robotic shell since its weight determines the construction of the inner elements. In an ideal world, the shell would weigh almost nothing, but we want it to be made from porcelain to highlight its sculptural and material characteristics, its physical presence, the sound of spheres gently rolling through space. Porcelain is also a technically demanding material to work with, and this imposes further challenges.

The spherical robots will work with a pozyx localisation system to coordinate their movement. However, this system has a precision of 10-15cm which has implications for the other parts of the installation. The spherical nature of the robots, their weight as well as the limitations of the pozyx localisation system means that the robots could veer off their tracks. This could be solved by placing weights inside the construction to increase stability in conjunction with corrective software to help balance the movement of the robots. Some of the problems could be resolved with a bigger/heavier battery, but the centre of gravity for the inside construction needs to be as low as possible. All this can only be done when we know the exact weight of the outer shell, and this is the most immediate focus of our current efforts. We are at the moment looking for manufacturing options and possible collaborators.


Hrvoje Hiršl

Hrvoje Hiršl is an artist, researcher and designer. His artistic research focuses on the intersection of contemporary art and media art discourse. The recurrent themes of his work include limitations of the medium, automation, complex systems and cybernetics. He is interested in revealing hidden structures and principles and developing strategies to make them visible. His work encompasses sound installations, video installations, interactive installations, prints, etc. He was nominated for the Radoslav Putar Award for the best Croatian artist under 35 in 2012 and was one of the representatives for Croatia at the Design Biennale in London in 2016. He is currently working on a book for the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam to be published in 2021.