eegb | Drawing & Technology Research

working? ooo quality mmmm the ring exhibition drawing machines

Gestalt of Robots - 2015

Belfast / 3 month residency with DAS and joint exhibition ‘Analogues’ at the Golden Thread Gallery. We received and innovation grant from ideas tap to help with material cost and realise the project. We also were mentioned in an article in ‘Visual Arts Northern Ireland’

The main aim of the residency was to begin to develop new ways of working with drawing machines. In light of our overlapping interests into systems we decided to pursue a robot design that would enable us to simulate complex behaviour like flocking. This meant building multiple robots that could communicate and interact with each other. We tried to keep the costs down as much as possible so that we could create more robots in the future.

The result was three robots that negotiated space. A pen maps each robots movement in a 2m area. The additive nature of the mark making meant that over a few days the drawing became rich and dense with marks. A donut like pattern emerged revealing the contested center ground. This is an emergent quality of the robots behavior and environment, nuancing the boundaries that are still apparent in Belfast.


The robots are tracked using a webcam suspended above. Using [Reacthvision]() we can get the positions and rotation of the symbols on top of the robot. This is then sent to an app, made with Processing, That communicates with the robots via a radio transmitter using the library [RFT](). This means the robots are sudo autonomous. All of the calculations are worked out on a computer and then the robots are sent simple , such as wheel speeds. We chose this approach as it makes the system very controllable and adaptable. also it is much easier to de-bug.

Each robot consists of an [Arduino Nano]() along with a (RFT)[], Two “hacked” servos and a lithium battery. There is also an individual tracking symbol on the top. We used K-nex wheels and a bent teaspoon for balance.

Special thanks to Robin Price for all the technical help and advise he gave us.

We have since developed the robots design in another project, see Gestalt - 2016.