SlugRobots

In our search for a balance between nature and technology we wanted to create a contrast between the highly technical innards of our creatures and the amorphous outside which would largely shape the viewer’s understanding. We didn’t want to hide the working of our projects, rather we wanted to subtly allude to their function and took inspiration from translucent fish as a means of doing this. Translucent fish swim through the depths of the sea glow softly with the light that shines through them, illuminating their vital organs and the mechanics of the biological object, our electronic creatures are softly lit so that shadows of them shine through the semi-opaque fabric skin of our creatures.

We looked at the motion of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest and then looked at different kinds of slugs and caterpillars who slowly crawl through space and combined the side to side step of Strandbeest with the crawling of the insects to inspire the movement of our electronic creatures. The caterpillars’ metamorphism allows them to adapt to their surroundings and environment. In another part of the animal kingdom, creatures move in packs to increase their chances of survival. Birds primarily communicate with each other through calls and sound, but they also have innate magnetic compasses strongly affected by light which allow them to way find. Similarly, bats use echo-location to bounce sound off their environment in order to see where they are going. We combine the motion of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest with slugs and caterpillars to inspire the movement of our objects, and took inspiration from the way in which birds and bats communicate to inspire the communication method of our electronic creatures.

Our creatures will be blind, their eyes long devolved to seeming non-existence, mere holes in their faces which do not actually sense. Instead, similar to the angler fish, they have bulbs which hang off the front of their heads and draw creatures to them without being heavily dependent on sight. Their soft shape can deform and spring back if they stumble into an object they did not ‘see’. The only visual cue that they offer to other animals as they move through their dimly lit space is the row of lights which run down the sides of their body, matching the ‘heart beat’ or tempo of the music being emitted by the creatures. This idea was inspired by bioluminescent organisms, in particular jellyfish that have parts of their body that are lit from within. Our creatures speak to each other using infra-red emitters and receptors to let them know where they are in relation to one another. They trundle along blindly emitting noises every thirty seconds but as they come in to range of their fellow creatures (potential pack members) they match their tempo to the creatures nearby (the slowest creature will match the tempo of the fastest creature) and continuously emit noise. When they eventually wander out of range of each other they become confused, and their tempo is randomized and they will return to making noise every thirty seconds until they run into another creature that they can try to bond with.

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