Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Phenomenology, smart materials and ambient robotics

Jill Coffin was another Digital Media PhD student I met at GA Tech, and I had the pleasure of talking with her about phenomenology in art and design practice (pdf), as well as the opportunities and challenges of collaborative work.

Although I'm not much of a Rorty fan--I prefer the work of Merleau-Ponty and especially the ethics that arise from Alphonso Lingis' phenomenology--I was impressed by Jill's desire to find common ground with HCI researchers by focussing on embodied interaction - especially since such collaborations with artists affect notions of scientific validity.

People who keep up on ambient computing might also recall Breeze, a cyborg tree project that was exhibited at ZeroOne in 2006. Like XS Labs' Kukkia and Vilkas dresses, Breeze uses the shape memory alloy Nitinol to guide its movements.

YouTube: Breeze

Robotany is a collaborative of Jill Coffin, John Taylor, and Daniel Bauen to combine nature and robotics. At the Robotany blog, you will find "documentation and tips on how to build ambient robots using smart materials."

We talked a bit about totems and talismans as participants in embodied interaction--and all without claiming anthropomorphism--but I think that's a topic that deserves far more attention than we were able to give it over tea.

Now, if I could just remember the name of the conference she was telling me about...

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