86533 The Acting Machine

Over the last twenty years there has been significant investment in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine automation by government agencies and commercial entities. We are now at a point in the hybridisation of these technologies where the potential is slowly being realised with new forms and applications frequently appearing on the world stage. We have been here before, at the birth of aviation and later, computing. Interestingly, all these industries – aviation, computing and now robotics – seem to owe a remarkable amount of their development and evolution to the theatre of war.

World War I was the first major conflict involving the large-scale use of aircraft during which time, specialised types evolved such as fighters, bombers and ground attack airplanes. During World War II, the first electronic computer was used to decrypt enemy messages and today we see mobile, semi-autonomous, four-legged robots that can function as a beast of burden on the battlefield.

Each of these technologies undoubtedly benefited from the competition of war and the rapid advancement that the event necessitates but it should be remembered that the evolution could also be attributed to the individuals in civilian clothing standing behind their machines collaborating and sharing knowledge.

This brief requires students to program and design both the event and the space. To program the event, students will need to research the field of robotics to understand physical capabilities and how those could be utilised or amalgamated to form an acting machine or robotic performer. The primary spaces are to be a theatre of war, where robots duel for survival and a theatre of peace, where robots collaborate for an artistic performance. A third experience is to be incorporated at some other point during the program, be it intermission, opening or closing periods. The definition of this third experience will arise through the students’ individual research and class discussions. Whilst in one sense, the robot can be defined as an acting machine, so too should the space be considered an acting machine. The technology that enables machine performance should be also seen to allow spatial performance. It is essential that the structure of events be considered in relation to time, to the extent that students will produce a run sheet; a list of events organized in temporal sequence. To inform the design of the space, students will need to think laterally and explore disparate precedents, ranging from the circus to sport. During this process, students will discover spatial patterns and similarities to assist with the creation of safe, highly functional public spaces.

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