I wanted to announce the opening of RoboCity at the Austin Children
I have conceived and directed RoboCity together with a team of
multimedia artists some of which are my students in my Virtual Reality
and Cyberspace in the Arts course.
Enclosed you will find RoboCity narrative that lead to a major support
by AT&T and some other hi-tech corporations.
As I am leaving for a long European tour this afternoon, I have not
edited the narrative. (sorry)
I will be checking my e-mail and hopefully respond to comments.
If you are planning to visit the area please stop by and visit the
</bold>Robo-City is an educational and artistic installation of
technologies, conceived and designed for the Austin Children's Museum
choreographer and interactive media artist
This six-week project (spanning June and July 1998) utilizes
20 area high school student artists and five teachers for design and
construction. Selected through a referral and interviewing process,
the student artists created an interactive world
for Museum visitors to explore which includes cyberhumans, robots,
interactive intelligent lighting, and MIDI interactive surfaces.
In January 1998, Yacov Sharir began to work with area high school
and administrators to amass a pool of 25 - 30 ethnically diverse
artists representing all geographic areas of the city who have an
in participating in this summer project. Selected from this pool, the
project participants reflect a myriad of artistic disciplines
dance, visual arts, multi-media, and music, insuring a
approach to this project. Teachers were selected based upon the level
interactive technology utilized in their curriculum.
The design phase of the project took place at the Austin Children's
Museum, in downtown Austin, Texas. The ACM Theatre was equipped with
Power Macs with
software which includes LifeForms, Extreme 3D, Micromind Director,
Photoshop, Detailer, After Effects, and Poser II as well as components
for the design and
construction of the MIDI surfaces and robotics.
Spanning three weeks, the design phase of Robo-City required the staff
participants to meet Monday through Friday for four hours per day.
familiarizing participants with computer hardware and software
for the project's design and construction and introducing them to
interactive environments. By the conclusion of week one, participants
created computerized environments and designed quick time movies
that has been used fore both the web site and performance in the
physical space. Students where encouraged to
think of the computer as a Theatre or as a world rather than a tool.
the participants also began to construct robotics elements, by building
mechanics for a remote control car and then building onto it or
down to create interactive elements that became the whimsical
the physical space of Robo-City.
During week two, participants were introduced to the additional
programs and learned how all these programs talk and relate to each
The QuickTime movie material and concept was utilized, along with the
of the video camera and its importance to the creation of Robo-City's
environment, with video-in and out demonstrations. Week two saw the
of the robotics element construction, as well as other interactive
components, including cyberhumans, robots, robotics lighting
the MIDI interactive musical surfaces.
The third and final week of the design phase was devoted to the
design (space) construction and project experimentation.
The central component of Robo-City are the MIDI (Musical Instrument
Interface) sensored surfaces. The MIDI surfaces are capable of
transmitting precise position coordinates, velocity, and pressure
information in the form of standard MIDI messages. Some of these
carpet the floor and consist of a large number of Force Sensing
(FSRs) which are attached to heavy duty plastic sheeting and covered
polyethylene foam. Each FSR is assigned a separate input channel of a
Voltage to a MIDI Interface Box which has 64 analog inputs, plus MIDI
The Midi Box incorporates a Motorola MC68HC11 microprocessor and can
programmed to convert input/output analog signals to/from any desired
message, on multiple MIDI channels.
Used in conjunction with an "intelligent" external MIDI processing
these floor surfaces are ideal for Robo-City, where one or more
the exhibit can affect the music, the lighting, the cyberhumans, and
robots in real time by the nature of their movements and by their
position(s) on the surfaces. Robo-City also employs the I-Cube
various tactile objects (constructed by the technicians and the
participants) are outfitted with a variety of I-Cube sensors such as
and slide sensors, flexible bend sensors, light sensitive and G-force
sensors. The way in which visitors interact, react to, and play around
these sensored objects controls the environment variables of light,
video projection, and triggers the Disklavier (an electronic "player"
Participants also addressed the connection between humans and their
representational presence in cyberspace as they created computerized
cyberhumans. Issues of time, space, physicality and gravity were
visited, as well as the question of how the body is to be represented
inhabited within a virtual space. The cyberhumans inhabit Robo-City
via video projection controlled by the MIDI interactive surfaces.
In developing the cyberhumans and their surrounding environment, a
multiplicity of questions were raised, and a model for collaboration
was proposed. This collaborative technological investigation
enhanced the methods of expression in virtual space and uncovered
digital processes through experimentation with the various software
and 3D rendering programs. First phase participants experienced true
collaboration in technological design, construction and showcasing and
away with the profound energy of human discovery.
The showcase phase of Robo-City opens June 19, 1998 at the newly
constructed Austin Children's Museum Theatre and continues for three
As visitors enter Robo-City, they transverse a MIDI floor panel which
activates video and audio instructions. With phase one design
as their guides, visitors learn that each person's own movement on the
floor panels triggers various sensors which control the city's
music, lighting, cyberhumans on the video screens and robotics
Visitors are invited to "play" with the sensored objects and interact
the robotics population to affect the city's environment.
Student ambassadors are trained to assist visitors in exploring the
installation and facilitating their questions comparing the cybercity
>the city in which they live.
Both the design and showcase phases of Robo-City are being video
for educational purposes. The video will be utilized to introduce
educators to new uses of science and technology in exploring social
and arts content and process. Robo-City is being transformed for the
Children's Museum Website, enabling visitors to explore the
I hope this is helpful and not to confusing