Week 3 – “Industrial Age, Kinetic Art and Robotics” by Derek Spitters

The industrial age marks a period of rapid technological advances that continues to this day. The primary goal of this revolution is to make life easier for our society. We mechanize procedures in our factories in order to make a standardized, consistent product for less money. So far, robots have not begun to demand wages. We build supercomputers to do number crunching for us, and we even use robots to do surgery. All of these advancements have reduced the amount of work we have to do. In some ways this can be a bad thing. Robots displace many jobs, and this trend will only continue as technology keeps advancing.

These constant technological developments have pervaded almost all aspects of our society and culture, so it is only natural that this progress be applied to artwork. Many artists have created interactive or kinetic art using the most cutting edge technology of the time. One example of this is the installation Particles of Interest by the *particle group*. (http://www.pitmm.net) This work of art featured a series of sensors that detect nano particles present on visitors. These sensors are placed in columns that contain speakers and provide audio feedback about the type of nano particles detected on each person who passes by. Each column was programmed to detect certain types of nano particles. This installation, which was featured at the North/South Mixer, used technology to create a unique experience for the viewer with the goal of encouraging a dialogue about the pervasiveness of nanotechnology.

Many other artists use robotics in their artwork as well. For example, in The Blanket Project, Nicholas Stedman created a robot shaped like a blanket. (http://nickstedman.banff.org/blanket.html) Wave-like pulses are created by the robot and are controlled either by computer or manually. A person can interact with the blanket by lying on the bed and allowing the blanket to flow over them.

In many ways, our society seems to have become obsessed with the idea of robots. Although the practical uses of many robots have made our existence much easier, our real fascination is with those robots that resemble humans. There are two basic aspects of these robots that attract us: the degree to which they look like a human and the degree to which they think like a human. In both areas advancements in technology have allowed us to make increasingly realistic humanoid robots. Our preoccupation with robots can be seen by the fact that every year a big blockbuster will feature robots. Some examples of these films are The Matrix, The Terminator, Alien, Star Wars, I, Robot, Transformers, Wall-E, Robocop, 2001, A Space Odyssey, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Stepford Wives, and Bicentennial Man. One reason that we seem to be increasingly engrossed by robots is that technology plays such a large role in our everyday lives. Not long ago a computer was a rare thing to own, but now people often buy a computer for every member of their family. Our cell phones now have GPS and our cars now have computers and cameras. Thanks to satellites we can access the internet wirelessly from anywhere in the world. Our generation has witnessed the rapid growth of computer technology. Movies that depict robots are an expression of our desire to see what could be possible in the near future after further developments.

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