Joybots - BBM-robots in the BMW-Welt Munich 2010-2012
In early summer 2009, BMW´s brand presentation management called
the artist group BBM to ask for an installation in their fabulous Coop
Himmelb(l)au showroom "BMW Welt", see http://www.coop-himmelblau.at/
They specified: "can we get a flock of your smart robots"? ofcourse
they could! but the flock had to be trained to meet all the complex
requirements of such an extraordinary space with its thousands of
"obstacles" like super flat landings, with hallways in between that
should be "no go areas", with open down staircases, a hyper
deconstructive and irregular ceiling of between 17 and 20 mtrs height
completely made from metal - which is a "nightmare" for all tracking
systems and -last but not least - how to deal with up to 12.000
visitors per day!?
BBM took on the challenge and developed within an extreme short time
span of only 6 months a complete new stearing and tracking system,
based on infrared beacons that have been used in a beta version during
their TROIA project (see TROIA here)
One of the most difficult aspect was to solve the task not to touch any
detail of the existing design and install all the technology in a way
that it is invisible for the visitors and still works 100% reliable.
BBM installed the IR positioning behind the ceiling in almost 25 mtrs
height and covered a "playground" of alomst 1000 sqm.
As well BBM developed and manufactured a brand new display system for
BMW: a 2 mtrs long 8 dot matrix for each joybot that is bended over two
axis to fit into the ampourphous inside of the robot´s shell, plus they
re-equiped the inside with an interactive RGB color lighting that makes
the joybots look like floating automatons.
In May 2010 BBM completed installation in situ within two weeks. now 6
"joybots" are fostering BMWs 2010 campaign "joy is the perfect bend".
Press Articles in English
To see everything the World Trade Fair has to offer you would need
DIE WOCHE lists ten attractions at Expo 2000 in Hanover
that nobody should miss.
Compiled by Till Briegler, Christian Tröster and Reinhardt Büning.
While scenographers from all over the world have spared no effort to
get their content across, the Oscar for the best and cleverest
production must go to the Centre for Art and Media Technology in
Karlsruhe. They have developed the world’d biggest free-roaming
flock of computers for the topic “Knowledge, information,
communication”. 72 of these objects, translucent and glowing slightly
on the inside, drift slowly across a kind of arena, through which
visitors also roam freely. The dome-shaped computer “eggs” use
sensors to react to people and to their ‘fellows’ and form larger or
smaller groups like schools of fish. Because every “egg” knows from a
central computer who is closest to it, smaller units “agree” on topics
on which films and pictures are projected onto their “shells”. The
whole thing is a playful example of what our knowledge could organise
and transmit in future, through self-organising computers,
non-hierarchical networks, and especially through the
possibilities for communication reaching far beyond the screen and
DIE WOCHE 5/2000
Making the future
Somewhere on the heavy soil of the state of Lower Saxony, a major
project for Expo 2000 is burgeoning – a “super-organism” of 75 robots.
By Arne Boecker
Hanover, May 31st
We’ll have a herd of elephants float over Hanover”, says Olaf Arndt,
who’s working on a project with the Karlsruhe Centre for Art and Media
Technology to make the future today. A serious declaration? Anyone who
gets immersed for a couple of days in the still rather vague world of
Expo 2000 learns to imagine what might happen in ten, fifty or a
hundred years. Rarely have so many castles in the air and prognoses
been made, and that in the earthily stolid state of Lower Saxony.
Visions run riot in the minds of the Expo bosses and press releases
teem with phrases such as “next century” and “global outlook”, but so
far only one thing is certain. The world trade fair will begin in
Hanover in a year’s time.
gSoon I won’t have to travel quite so much”, is Martin Roth’s
personal prognosis. Roth 44, drops into his chair. He has just returned
from negotiations in Spain. The pile of papers on his desk forms a neat
square. Martin Roth is used to dealing with artists but he also has to
establish some order; after all he’s dealing not just with people but
with sums in the millions. He has been in charge of the theme park at
the heart of the Expo since March 1997.
Castles in the air
Martin Roth is on leave from his post as Director of the German Hygiene
Museum Dresden until after the Expo. He works in an office in Hanover,
surrounded by construction drawings (on official business) and
children’s’ paintings (private). A pair of yellow rubber boots in the
corner are a reminder that the castles in the air he is building still
have to be wrested out of a muddy building site.
gHuman – Nature – Technology” is the Expo 2000 motto and the
theme park wants to orchestrate this triad. Roth’s team has separated
the monstrous motto into eleven sections, ranging from “Environment –
Landscape – Climate” through “Nutrition” and “Energy” to “The Future of
Work”. Previous world trade fairs have been grouped around such a core,
which usually involved the presentation of foreign ethnicities. “Now
that we have Internet, nobody needs a world trade fair for that any
more“, adds Roth. “In the magical year 2000” he would therefore rather
go on a “journey into the interior of humanity”.
Martin Roth hasn’t reinvented the Expo theme park, but has powerfully
revitalised the concept. He would especially like to use this “mixture
of cathedral and power station”, as he calls the theme park, to drum up
support for Agenda 21, the action programme of the Rio Environment
Conference in 1992. “Sustainable development” is for him not synonymous
with renunciation, rather he believes that it opens up a wide range of
chances. He wants to pull out all the technical stops to enthral his
visitors. “The word “interactivity” is over-used now, “ he explains,
“but here the visitors really can act like actors in a
three-dimensional film.” Among all the valuable (Tschingderassabum ?)
with which they want to improve the world from Hanover within one year,
the heads of the Expo currently don’t have much more to show for it
than drawings, models and animated film clips. And even if they are
blessed with Mr Roth’s verbal eloquence, discussions always take the
same course. Their gazes fixed on a distant point, they gesticulate
with a certain “grandezza”, as if already describing the outlines of
their aerial castles. It’s evident that they’ve already peeked behind
the curtain which for the rest of the world will only go up on June 1st
There’s not a single ‘light as air’ elephant in Martin Roth’s office.
One piece of the future close enough to touch is however sitting in a
car repair workshop among rusty screws and oily rags. It’s as high as a
human, looks like a dented egg and is rather dusty. Olaf Arndt is
examining its milk-white shell for scratches, saying things like,
“We’re exhibiting a super-organism with qualities that distinguish the
individual but at the same time are intrinsic to the group.” Could
someone with so much imagination perhaps get elephants to float?
Back to Earth. Olaf Arndt, 38, is on the team of the Karlsruhe Centre
for Art and Media Technology (ZKM). The group is working on the Eiffel
Theme Park entitled “Knowledge – Information – Communication”. The
“super-organism” he’s talking about is really nothing more than a
flock, like those formed by birds and fish, yet one of the most
spectacular projects of Expo 2000 is currently taking shape in this
workshop. Because this ‘flock’ that Olaf Arndt and his team are
attempting to breathe ‘life’ into consists of 75 robots.
Two wheels with rubber tyres support a base plate which carries a
commercially-available wheelchair motor and two car batteries and is
covered with a transparent dome. Three different versions of this
construction are currently planned. The prototypes are between one and
three metres high. This 75-member ‘family’ of robots will sweep through
Expo Hall Number 4 at a maximum speed of one kilometre an hour. “A
cocktail of sensors,” adds Olaf Arndt, enables the rolling robots to
maintain an equal distance from each other as they dance the
choreographies that the ZKM team will store in their computer.
Pressure rings and medium-range recognition sensors react to molecular
density and therefore to people. “The visitors’ physical presence is
also an intervention in the flock” explains Olaf Arndt and you can
already imagine children driving these funny “eggs” through the Expo
Hall with howls of excitement.
The 75 robots are however much more than “just for fun”. In their
bellies they also nurture projectors that project films and information
on topics like “mass media”, “the archive” or “the map of the body”
onto the egg’s “shell”. The information flows freely and is largely
self-organising, but every exterior event changes the content. Above
all else, it’s also a parable on the Internet that the ZKM is
presenting with this project.
In the media artists’ loft, just a few minutes away from the workshop,
a note on a “Russian EKIP ship’s motor that imitates the movement of a
fish” is stuck to Olaf Arndt’s pin board. For Olaf Arndt this flock is
a “hybrid of biological and technological forms”. In his constructions
he and his colleagues are following nature, “which also copies cells”.
On the other hand, there into interventions the nature of humanity are
also increasing. As a positive example of this, Olaf Arndt mentions
microchips, which can enable the deaf to hear again. “At the end of
this path,” he prophesizes, “we find the post-biological human being”.
He adds quickly that he doesn’t regard himself an apologist for these
kinds of developments, but instead quotes Kurt Schwitters, who said,
“If there’s a screw, it will be turned”.
They’re not nutters, they’re making the future
The Northern German TÜV’s blue logo looks over the shoulders of the ZKM
group from the other side of the street. Those masters of standards,
rules and regulations naturally want to ensure that Olaf Arndt’s
machines can’t run amok and massacre Expo visitors. They have therefore
written in their risk assessment report ESL 1/ No. 98 that “The
emergency shutoff telegram must be saved so that a safety distance of
at least 3 is reached”.
This prosaic TÜV ‘lyric’ might make readers smile, but it poses Olaf
Arndt a very philosophical question. How much autonomy can his
experiment stand? “Of course we would love to provide each capsule with
its own intelligence; less control would result in more efficiency. But
TÜV insisted that we have a central computer.” Referring to the social
critique inherent in his robot flock Arndt adds, “The world’s major
ideological systems have collapsed, so we need orders that build
themselves up from below. Nature shows us how.“
Olaf Arndt is helping to shape the future, he’s certainly not a nutter,
so there’s one promise he’ll never make; “we’ll have a herd of
elephants floating over Hanover”
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 6/1999
Endangered species, unfamiliar and all too familiar creatures – a visit to the Expo.
By Arno Widmann
There’s a space at the Expo that everybody who has seen is enthusiastic
about. It’s in the “Knowledge” Pavilion, behind the Science Tunnel and
the space with the Eli Noam quote. It’s a huge, almost completely
darkened hall into which the visitor initially stumbles rather than
walks. Seventy two giant eggs, ranging in height from 50 centimetres to
well over two metres, drift through the hall with the gravity of a pod
of whales. Apart from the whispers of the visitors and the sounds of
the monsters, it is almost completely silent. All the visitors have
read about them, they already know that they will approach them and get
out of their way, but all of them would be initially alarmed to see
most of them calmly but inexorably approaching. The visitors get out of
the robots’ way. They don’t want to admit it, but they’re scared. The
robots are big, there are lots of them, and they know their way around
their gloomy habitat, their realm, which the visitor, curious and
self-assured, is entering for the first time. The visitor glances
towards the exit; now comes the decision as to whether to pass through
quickly, take a stand against them, or to watch first and try and
assess the situation more clearly.
The visitor observes the other visitors. Men stand a few centimetres in
front of the biggest robots and are annoyed when they don’t get out of
their way. They go quickly to the next monster, stand in front of it
again and are annoyed again. After three, four or five attempts they
start to rail at it, “What a lot of shit”, “It’s a con”. They stride
towards the exit, signalising to everyone that they’re not going to let
themselves be made a monkey of by this place, the darkness and
certainly not by these quietly humming machines that seem so incapable
of doing what they were built to do. Women on the other hand, embrace
the robots, stroking and patting their wonderfully smooth skins. But
even for them, the robots don’t do what the newspapers say they do;
they don’t approach them and they don’t get out of their way. But
the women don’t seem to mind. They like these smooth, gigantic
babies and find out how they work. As long as they give them and
themselves the time.
The robots are to be approached like any wild animal. You stop a
certain distance away so it can see and smell you and you hope that it
doesn’t go bounding away. This robot from the Karlsruhe Centre for Art
and Media Technology reacts like a young seal: it slides up close, it
wants to smell you and get to know you. If you retreat, you will notice
that it and the whole flock will follow you, albeit slowly. The visitor
feels fear returning, then, taking courage, remembers everything he has
read about these monsters and stands still. The robots continue to
approach, but the visitor notices that the lead robot has changed
direction somewhat. It glides past like a three-masted schooner, the
entire flock in its wake.
A moment of relief. The visitor recalls ET’s finger and that not
everything we’re afraid of is necessarily evil, that we have to give
our emotions time and shouldn’t override them because we need them if
we’re to have any experiences. The men who apparently so bravely
confronted these strange beings have not got to know them. They now
lack that experience. And they’re dumber for it.
That’s a lesson pupils must learn by example from their teachers, who can’t teach what they haven’t learnt themselves.
Berliner Zeitung, 6/2000
The world of the future is now
Rolling robots are a great attraction
Even before the Expo, these rolling “egg-heads” were a very popular
attraction. The rounded, autonomous robots glide in flocks through the
space, usually flexibly avoiding visitors. Bathed in blue light, this
flock is a reference to the global knowledge network.
Siemens Expo-Journal, 11/2000, 5/2000