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Robotics and Art Combine in Latest Viral Video “Box”

SH 193_#3 BIG

Last December, we visited two very cool companies at the intersection of high tech and art—Bot & Dolly and Autofuss. In an industrial space behind their café, Front, the companies use robotic arms, clever software, and cameras to produce multimedia experiences the likes of which you’ve never seen.

Well, they’re at it again. Bot & Dolly recently released a mind-blowing video titled, “Box.” The visuals alone are striking. But they’re much more impressive when you realize they weren’t done in post-production. Had you seen the sequence shot live, the view would look no different from the video.

So what have they done here? The crew attached two featureless flat panels to a pair of robotic arms. You might recognize the robots doing the choreography as the same pair dancing together in the video we took last winter. They’re repurposed from a Detroit assembly line and programmed using Bot & Dolly’s Maya-based robotics software platform, IRIS, to perform complicated sequences of motion with near perfect precision.

SH 193_#5Because the arms and projector are both talking to that central bit of software, the computer always knows where in space the panels are and at what angle. This privileged bit of information allows software, projector, and arms to work together, manipulating the projection to give the illusion of all kinds of psychedelic 3D shapes and images.

Bot & Dolly says the new methodology could potentially “transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.” And it doesn’t take much to imagine the concept at a concert or show in Vegas.

But it’s also a good reminder that technology alone, that is the ability to do something new, isn’t enough. It always requires creative combinations and good design to unleash tech’s full potential. That’s why companies playing and experimenting at the edge of both art and tech, like Bot & Dolly, are important.

The result is beautiful, and suspending disbelief for a moment or two, it might as well be “indistinguishable from magic.” But it’s even better when the curtain is drawn back on the wizards at the end of the video—robots are awesome.

Image Credit: Bot & Dolly

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3 comments

  • Julian Klappenbach says:

    While you’ll probably see projection mapping used more frequently at events and concerts (it’s already being put to use by a few notable artists), I doubt you’ll see the same type of effects used here. This particular presentation relied on synchronization between the exact location and orientation of the camera and the internal 3D meshes that were used to generate the scene, so that a “3D” effect could be woven into the video. Sitting in a theater seat, you’ll not have the level of immersion.

    That said, projection mapping on its own is a brilliant concept for lighting.

  • Andrew Jackson says:

    Well Said Julian. Great re-purposing for the machines. Beautifully done. Flawless projection mapping. Still its a new media, we just have to wait for the right artist to come in and put it all together. – http://www.tricktools.com

  • Naomi5 says:

    Hello my name is Naomi, i have important issue to discuss with you please reply me back with this my private email [Naomiapia@hotmail.com]Thanks

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