Spiderbots. This word makes you both curious and just a little bit afraid. The spiderbots employed by Orcon to create art however seem harmless enough, so far.
As a part of this weekend’s Semi-Permanent design conference in Aotea Square in central Auckland, Orcon commissioned the creation of three robots which can spray paint onto 3 metre by 3 metre canvasses.
Stencils for the artwork are provided by international artists, and Twitter users are able to colour in the canvasses by using hashtags designated for each of the three robots. The Tweets tell the robot what colour to use, and which of the 400 tiles on the canvas to paint on.
The movement of the robots resemble spiders weaving webs, hence the name spiderbot.
M&C Saatchi came up with the initial spray can-wielding robot concept, but London-based, Kiwi-staffed agency WeLoveInc built and programmed the actual robots.
Nick Redwood, technical director at WeLoveInc, says the idea for using wire-guided robots came from watching the spider cams during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which provided TV audiences with a bird’s eye view of the players on the field.
“Watching those spider cams zoom around the stadium, and seeing how interested people were in them, cemented the idea in my head,” says Redwood.
The robots took 12 weeks to build and program. Redwood admits a computer numerical controlled (CNC) robot would probably have been easier to construct, but it wouldn’t have the same impact, he says.
Redwood’s robots use Arduino-based hardware and its code libraries to operate the spiderbots. Arduino is an open source electronics and manufacturing platform popular with RC enthusiasts, hobbyists, and designers. Its user-community has created robots that can climb buildings, be used for spying, and navigate rooms without controllers.
The robots are connected to the internet through an Ethernet cable, and are programmed using Twitter’s API to search for the hashtags carrying co-ordinates and colour information.
Because each robot only has 8KB of memory, they are limited in the complexity of the tasks they can perform. Tasks need to be stacked 10 at a time. Redwood says this was the most difficult aspect of this project, as he had to refine the community code to fit on the system.
The three robots Charlotte, Insy Winsy, and Peter Parker, will be painting today and tomorrow - with their final pieces unveiled tomorrow afternoon. Two canvasses will be won by people tweeting in, and one will be auctioned for charity.
Ironically, the ISP's promotion failed to work this morning because of problems with the robot's internet connection. Orcon was (incredibly) quick to point out it wasn't because of an issue at their end. Unfortunately this means we don't have a video of the robots in action just yet, but we'll update with one soon.
Waiting for Spotify
Mention of Orcon, reminded us about Spotify. That’s the service which streams a catalogue of 15 million songs for a monthly fee, or a limited catalogue for free with advertising.
According to themusic.com.au Spotify will announce details of its Australian launch next week. No word on whether New Zealand will be included in the launch. Yet. But we have asked.
Orcon said a couple of months ago it would “love to unmeter” Spotify. Some other telcos also got back to us to say they’d think about unmetering Spotify. Skinny mobile never returned our calls.
We’ll continue to play with our records.