Watch: Delicate Art Made With A Massive Robotic Arm

A stunning glimpse of where robotics, art, and architecture will intersect in years to come.

We’ve already started to see how useful robots can truly be. They assemble products and take surveillance photos and vacuum floors, and in the near future they’ll play a bigger role in things like driving cars, performing surgeries, and fighting fires. But rarely do we see the power of robotics harnessed purely in the pursuit of beauty. And as this video shows, they can be pretty damn good at that, too.


The clip is a compilation of student work from Eye, Robot, a course offered last fall at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. The course, led by instructors Brandon Kruysman and Jonathan Proto, “explores robotic motion control as a creative medium for designers.” Basically, they gave the students access to the school’s impressive robotic rig and let them go wild.

The resulting work, made with custom software, takes a few different forms, each impressive in its own right. The beginning of the video is dedicated to a wild variant of long-exposure photography where swirls and lattices of light are captured from different angles, and then explored in the round. The process required attaching a remote-controlled DSLR to one of the robotic arms, and then capturing a succession of 30-second exposures. It takes a photographic technique dedicated to capturing motion–and sets those results into motion once again. Or, as Kruysman says, it’s “sort of like the ‘bullet time’ effect, without the crazy camera rigs.” Subsequent clips show what happens when other devices, like strobe lights or plasma TV screens, are incorporated into the robotic setup.

The second half of the video includes some even wilder techniques, where we see the physical robotic arm interacting with digital models and materials. Kruysman says the group considered this “a way to ‘virtually prototype,'” essentially a new medium for exploring ideas with one foot in the physical world and one in the digital.

These crazy visuals are only the start. Kruysman sees in these systems the potential to change the way architects work in years to come. “Fundamentally the gap between digital and physical is collapsing,” he says, “and these machines allow us as designers to experiment in a completely different way.”

And, okay, the crazy visuals are exciting for them, too. “We are really interested in the application of robotics and cinematography,” Kruysman says. “We see this type of work not only as a new type of speculative medium in architecture and manufacturing, but as a new way to produce images and visualizations that are not just ordinary images, but ‘hybrids.'” It’s all rooted in the group’s interest in the unexplored spaces between digital modeling and physical production. As the instructor explains, “The potential to blur those boundaries is where it gets really exciting for us.”

[Hat tip: Creative Applications]


[GIF via dvdp]