Tuesday 20 May 2014

Robot built from vacuum cleaner tweets art criticism

A team led by UCL's Frauke Zeller and David Harris-Smith of Canada's McMaster University, has built a robot made out of a vacuum cleaner which visits art galleries and tweets about them.

The robot is made out of a modified Roomba vacuum-cleaning robot, with its Arduino circuitry held together by a kitchen sieve. The sum total of the parts was about $300. So, in a way, those sci-fi dramas of old with flimsy homemade props turned out to be true.

Called KulturBOT, it tweeted to @kulturbot over the past year, visiting galleries across the UK and Canada and making an appearance at EVA London. The tweets are algorithmically-generated artbollocks, using a Markov-driven random text generator to publish text strings to Twitter and captions for its images.

According to a paper written by Zeller and Harris Smith, there were two concerns which came out of this experiment. The first was public anonymity because it was uploading pictures. The second was an observation about the context in which the robot appeared, or to quote the paper, the questioning of the "circumstances [of] the robot becoming an active agent in an ethical paradigm". 

It's a good, cheap, bit of fun research. Who'd have thought it - Valdemar Januszczak, Brian Sewell, JJ Charlesworth and co being usurped by a glorified Henry.

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