Automaton – The humane machine experiment

I have always wanted to make life-like machines.  Not in the “Terminator/horrifying robot/human” sense, but moving mechanical contraptions that create delight, fascination and if I could, a little bit of awe.

My background in large scale sculpture, set design and build has always pushed me towards an interest in large, magnificent and complex machines.

Creatures or things that could stride down a city street, stopping traffic, and giving every onlooker, just for a moment, the sense that they are dreaming. Or that dreams can come to life, however briefly.

Automaton are beings that blur the lines between the physical, the digital and the biological
Chimera, not one or the other,
Revenants of our past.
Windows into the technological complexity of our future.

When we talk about robots we visualise all manner of things: Scary tin boxes, AI, Chat bots and life size sex toys, But a robot or automaton does not need to look like a human to seem alive.

In fact building robots that seem like degraded versions of ourselves devalues both them and us.

Can we create a narrative between human and automaton? – AI like the Echoborg project ( allow us to communicate with machine intelligence but rely on human performers to create an interface between ourselves and the machine.

A vast amount of the way in which humans communicate with each other is non verbal -something which is easily ignored in this time of DM’s , Messenger and Twitter. Emoji’s don’t really cover the wide range of human expressions and emotions do they?

Perhaps if we could create an emotional interface we would be able to communicate more clearly with each other online, calming arguments and reminding each other of our own shared humanity.

I cant see us managing to do this with human-like robots though – that would just be freaky! (and totally roll back into sex-bot territory)

Perhaps the answer is to study the natural world for motions/creatures that look entirely unlike us but whose motions are understandable to us and who can convey complex non-verbal communication without trying to mimic humanity

I wonder if this would allow us moments of empathy with the machine?
Perhaps our anthropomorphising nature will allow us to see things from the machines perspective?

“Our power and intelligence do not belong specifically to us but to all matter.
Our technologies are the sex organs of material speculation.
Any attempt  to understand these occurrences is blocked by our own anthropomorphism.
In order to proceed therefore one has to birth post human machines, a fantasmagoric and unrepresentable repertoire of actual re-embodiments of the most hybrid kinds.”

Extract from the 3D Additivist Manifesto

In the following set of sketch-blogs I will be working through these theories. Creating work and testing on (unsuspecting) members of the public.

Trying to find ways of forging connection between machines and the organic.

Trying to get my head round the technology needed to make this happen.

What follows will be a crash course in Electronics, Robotics, Sculpture, Theatre and Art.
Its almost certainly going to involve quite a lot of shouting, some long nights in the workshop, something important breaking and a bit of panic.

I’m looking forward to seeing where exactly this journey will take me.

I’m going to sketch it as I go.