The IK Prize : After Dark – An interactive experience of a life time | Opinion | Culture

After dark

In a guest post, art student Alicia Bedden reflects on a new way of experiencing art, using the power of technology…and robots…

As a designer we’re always trying to find new ways to interact with our audiences, finding that key aspect that will keep people interested and want to tell other people about their experience, that excitement. There is a constant sense of thriving for designers to create that experience.

A great example of this state of mind as a designer, is an art installation where the audience is guided around by ‘angels’ and forced to walk at a certain pace, such as Robert Wilsons ‘Walking’. An installation like this, allowed the audience to travel around without any of their belongings to worry about, giving them a chance to actually concentrate and delve into their surroundings. (Look it up, it will make you wish you were there like I did.) It’s a constant thought in my mind as a designer, what is it that the audience want to take from the experience? Do they actually know what they want? It’s what you get taught by your University tutors to think about.

With all this in mind, a recent event at the Tate Britain was one of those events, that as a designer you ‘squee’ over, wishing you’d thought of that. ‘After Dark’, the winning project in the 2014 IK Prize was revealed at the Tate Britain. Where the concept of robots taking over was no longer a theory but a reality. They let four robots lose around at night, letting people on the internet, from all-over the world, control them. Sounds pretty cool right? I know.

The robots are equipped with lights, a camera, sensors and motors allowing them to sneak through the galleries in the dark. An onboard computer streams their vision through the internet in real-time and responds to commands.” – Tate Britain

After Dark

The idea of it just makes me tingle. Imagine being the one controlling one of the robots, remotely driving it around the museum at night, where all you can see on your screen is what’s caught in the lights of your robot, maybe even catching a glimpse of another robot whizzing past in another room. It’s that sense of curiosity, exploration and excitement that attracts me to the idea. Here watch this video, let it excite you even more. (Watch the making of video).

“The robot and your hands just become an extension of your mind, that’s how technology ‘aught to be.” Colonel Chris Hadfield, the first person to navigate the robots, from his home in Toronto. Such an interesting concept don’t you think?

The robots themselves are just an extension of you, letting you be the one exploring the gallery, going where you want to go, seeing things you want to discover. Actually getting the chance to test the robots, seeing how they moved, made me realize that after I while I did forget I was remotely controlling this robot. I was being enveloped by the experience, my movements are the robots, the robot and me are exploring as one. Sounds crazy? Maybe, but unless you were one of the few that got the chance to control them, you’ve missed out on an experience of a life time I can tell you. Being in a room filled with other people all excited to test these robots, I knew that the idea was a success before it had even begun.

The design of the robots give you the freedom to explore as though you were there yourself, they move at walking pace, with the ability to look up and down, with the lights being their eyes of sorts. The only main difference being the height, as these lil’ fellas are 1200mm tall, unlike the average height of a person which is roughly 1500mm. Even though they look like a distant cousin of the Disney’s Wall-E, these are truly spectacular pieces of technology.

It excites me to imagine all the possibilities that this technology and interaction with the audience, can do to future events such as this. According to Jane Burton, Creative Director, “its not for commercial gain, we’re trying to bring art to an ever wider audience.” That’s all we ever want to do, right? Explore the world further?

Alicia Bedden

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