When the Japanese band Androp commissioned designer and sound artist Yuri Suzuki to make a music video for their song "World Words Lights," he faced a difficult challenge: making a robot band that was both minimalistic and cute. As the finished clip shows, he and his team succeeded without taking the easy route, only relying on the smallest touches of anthropomorphism.
Along with his collaborators—roboticist KIMURA and lighting and interaction designer Tomoaki Yanagisawa—Suzuki created a set of sculptural bots that rely chiefly on movement and lighting for their personality.
There are two pyramids that disassemble themselves to the groove of the music; a segmented column that wriggles back and forth to the beat; a stack of security-camera-like boxes with on-screen eyeballs to match; and two towers fitted with green laser lights at the top. As the clip progresses, the band comes to life—by the end, the scene looks like some strange combination of state-of-the-art surveillance gear and a child’s birthday haul of new toys, circa 2050.
Suzuki was tapped by Japanese creative firm Party Inc. to work on the video. As a starting point, the group asked him to look at the minimalist Absolut Choir robots designed by Swedish digital music company Teenage Engineering, where Suzuki himself had worked as a designer (the robots themselves were created by Teenage Engineering CEO Jesper Kouthoofd. For his own bots, Suzuki says he looked to the work of industrial designers like Dieter Rams and Sam Hecht, designers whose objects, Suzuki thought, were "quite minimalistic but at the same time had a really cute aesthetic." Other influences? Herbie Hancock’s seminal robot music video for "Rockit," of course.
Suzuki says his collaborators had the toughest job: getting his robots to come to life to the beat of the music. But he succeeded at an equally elusive aim: tickling viewers with a cast of robot characters that has only one human face among them.