A CENT FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?

The Minimum Wage Machine by Blake Fall-Conroy was one of our most popular exhibits at HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY. It allows anybody to work for minimum wage — turning the crank will yield one cent every 3.892 seconds, for €9.25 an hour, Ireland’s standard minimum wage for an adult worker.

During the exhibition, plenty of our visitors rolled up their sleeves and gave the Minimum Wage Machine a go — here’s how the majority spent their earnings.

Coffee

A few weeks into the show, a visitor saw what the piece could do, and wanted to see if they could purchase a coffee from the café with their earnings. They asked the café staff if they could use the Minimum Wage Machine coins as payment, and the café staff lightheartedly agreed, thinking the visitor wouldn’t have the patience to collect that much coinage. Lo and behold, the visitor returned to the café sometime later to buy their coffee with nothing but one-cent coins. Suitably impressed, the café gave them coffee free of charge — and the visitor ended up donating the coins to their tip jar!

Souvenirs 

In at least two cases, visitors (especially the younger ones) used the Minimum Wage Machine to earn enough coins to buy their own souvenirs in our shop — a well-earned purchase!

Donations

Many visitors (and many parents of younger visitors) were unsure what to do with the copious amounts of one cent coins they earned while in the gallery. On departure, a good number of them noticed our donations box out front, and deposited their well-earned cash into it.

Lunch

Stefan (pictured below) came in with his school group for a tour of HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY a few weeks before the exhibition closed. They loved Minimum Wage Machine – but none more so than Stefan. After the tour, he decided to stick around and earn enough money to buy a Subway foot-long sandwich. He cranked the handle tirelessly for over an hour, listening to classical music to make the time pass quicker — and he had ended up earning himself over €8! He agreed to return to the gallery to let us know if he got his sandwich… and he did, with a drink and an extra 6-inch sandwich! The cashier, hearing the story of Minimum Wage Machine, was moved by the story and ended up telling Stefan all about his own hardships and life surviving in Russia on minimum wage – and he agreed to take the coins and make the requested sandwich, and threw in an extra one for Stefan’s friends back in the gallery.

Who knew that such a small coin machine could harbour or ‘crank out’ so many stories!

Advertisements

ARE YOU FEELING TICKLISH?

Well? Are you?

Should humans and robots bunk up together? Are these intimate relationships even possible? That’s what HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY exhibit Tickle Salon attempts to discuss.

Is there a line drawn in the sand for what areas of life robotics can conquer, and have we crossed it? These are just some of the questions raised by visitors upon viewing this intimate robot.

Allow me to paint you a picture of a typical Tickle Salon session — a willing participant removes their shirt, and lies flat on the bed as if waiting for a massage. The robot is activated, and its ceiling-high threads move to lower the tassels towards the visitor’s body, all accompanied with a sound reminiscent of a claw-machine found in childhood arcade… then — contact!

The tassels now slowly move across the body, both examining and caressing. Some find this ticklish, others sensual. This experience can last from ten to twelve minutes. Some visitors cry with delight when told this, as they’re in it for the long haul! As the session comes to a close, the claw machine noise sounds again; your moment with the stroking bot is over. “Well, how was it?” we ask. And this is when the fun begins.

Our visitors had so many mixed reactions to Tickle Salon — from outright hating the experience to wanting one for their own home! We took it upon ourselves to document visitors’ reactions in a very #dataisbeautiful kind of way…

Pretty mixed bag, right? Wait until you see the male to female user ratio!

The month of March had more males partaking in Tickle Salon than females, at 64% of the total usage versus female usage of 36%.

For the month of April, male usage increased (72%) while female usage decreased (28%).

May was the quietest and shortest month, with HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY ending on 21st May. Male usage of the exhibit was still greater than female usage.

The final tally for Tickle Salon usage, with a total usage of 316 people, 215 males and 101 females. From this data set, males held a majority usage throughout the exhibition.

There you have it! From our data collection, males seem to want to explore intimate robot relationships more than female visitors — or maybe women didn’t want to take their shirts off! We also found from our research that Wednesdays and Fridays were the most popular days for tickling, and the least popular day was Saturday  —  and Tickle Salon was so popular with two of our users that they came back a second time.

So are robots here to replace our intimate relationships? Who knows! Some of our visitors state they would love for something like this to exist in the future, while other outright oppose the idea. For now, though, let’s just have it as a speculative idea….

Big Robots Don’t Cry

Stony 1.0 is one of my favourite exhibits in HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY, because of the ethics and intentions behind the exhibit.

Stony 1.0 is a grave-tending robot created by Itamar Shimshony, and it is an exhibit that examines the possibilities and implictions of robotics creeping into the very personal ceremony of mourning the dead. Stony 1.0’s main duty as eternal grave-tender is to place small stones and red roses on resting places, using its robotic and very unsympathetic arm to do so. The bot is also capable of spraying a small amount of water, to illustrate the symbolic washing of a burial place that is part of many religions.

Not only do I personally enjoy Stony 1.0 as an exhibit, I also thoroughly enjoy discussing it at length on tours; mainly to see visitors’ reactions to the controversial nature of this piece. Firstly, I ask the visitors to guess the purpose of the robot. Some hazard a guess that it’s a gardening robot — which isn’t too far off; others guess that it collects roses and stones for its own personal use, which is quite far off. When I finally reveal the actual function of Stony 1.0, it is generally met with resounding disbelief. How could a robot function as a mourner?!

We have grown up with the idea that robots are built to make our lives easier, and to allow us to move from very mundane jobs to more professional careers; nowadays, we also see robots as our companions — think Tamagotchi or Cozmo, our playful little companion bot and another exhibit featured in HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY.

But mourning the dead is a very humanistic act; certainly, some animals visually show grief, like elephants, giraffes and chimpanzees, but surely the act of mourning isn’t a job we can shove off to robots, is it? How far will we go with robotics? It’s as if Stony 1.0 is doing the ‘chores’ of mourning with no feeling.

The reactions from visitor vary. Some really enjoy the idea of a grave-tending robot, and mention that if you die and have no family, or your family live far away and you wish to carry out these rituals after you pass on, this robot could be the solution. Others totally oppose the idea of a robotic mourner, believing the act to be a right reserved for humans.

When you watch the robot complete its tasks, after some time you will start to notice that it is not the most meticulous of creatures. Stones and roses will be strewn across the floor rather than on the graves; the machine possesses no computer vision, so is unaware that it hasn’t completed its task correctly and, at times, it drives over one of the displaced stones on the floor and gets its wheels jammed. Upon closer inspection, one will notice large white marks on the stonework — they’re not lichens, but battle scars from Stony 1.0’s physical actions.

This piece begs the question: is this our future? Will robots take over every aspect of our lives even after we die? Will graveyards turn out like lights-out factories where robots rule? How many ‘chores’ will we off-load onto robotics? Only time will tell. Watch this grave space…

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DOPPELGÄNGER…

When we imagine what a robot looks like, the DoppelGänger bots pretty much fit our assumed description — largely metal, clunky casts, with lights and wires too complicated to comprehend strewn across its body. Well, DoppelGänger is this and much more!

DoppelGänger was created by ForReal Team and ProtoDynamics in Israel as an exploration of the dynamic link between virtual and physical identities; the exhibit examines human-robot kinetic interactions and explores the possibilities of robotic armies or military helper bots in the near future — a possibility that is becoming a reality for a robotics company Boston Dynamics, who have successfully created a pack mule called the LS3 or the ‘Big Dog’, as it’s sometimes known.

ForReal Team worked tirelessly over the installation week before the opening night of HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY to create the dynamic trio of DoppelGänger. The robots were shiny new toys in the gallery, a techie’s dream, and they worked a treat — during the HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY launch party, when the exhibition opened to the public for the first time, they drew quite a crowd. How often do you get a chance to have three space-age bots copy you doing the macarena?

IFrame

DoppelGänger performed well during the opening week of HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY, but then we started to notice something off about the bots’ behaviour as the weeks progressed. When one bot suddenly shut itself off, we noticed that one of its wires had been pulled out of the main circuit panel. The wire was fixed, and all was dandy — until it happened again. This time, I was there to witness it. No one was interacting with the piece; no one was dabbing, or doing the robot even, when all of a sudden, the robot ripped its own wire out with its arm! It had to be seen to be believed.

Over the next few days, the other two robots followed suit, ripping their wires out and literally popping their cogs. One even disassembled its arm — twice!

It was clear these robots did not want to be displayed. Our technical team were kept busy devising fixes for the self-destructing robots; the artists were consulted, and a Ph.D. of robotics from Trinity College Dublin was brought in to soothe the robots ailments.

The conversations with visitors and tours about the robots during this bumpy stage were interesting and amusing. Visitors were frightened about the prospect of bots actively shutting themselves off when they feel like it, but also charmed by the fact that these robots somehow looked as if they had feelings.

As the show went on, we continued to ignore the robot’s decision to go Error 404: File Not Found and kept bringing them back to life. They knew they had to kick it up a notch to really get our consideration, so next, one bot tried to start a small fire in its circuitry. We did get to it before it truly went alight, but the smoky warning sign did get our attention.

We continued to fix the bots until one of the better-behaved robots, Robot 2, decided to join the pyrotechnics display and also begin to smoke, threatening to go up in flames if we didn’t disengage it right away. As a result of all these death threats, the team decided to grant the bots’ wishes and leave them be. They now stand in the gallery as a sculptural exhibit, accompanied by a video displaying their glory days.

I will leave you with a thought I share with a lot of visitors when chatting about this piece: We worry about the inevitable takeover of the robots and artificial intelligence and the end of world scenarios that may stem from that revolution, but if the DoppelGänger robots are any indication, perhaps we don’t have have to rush to panic just yet —  if they clearly don’t want to stay alive and operative for more than two hours after they have been extensively fixed, maybe the end isn’t nigh after all!

DESIGN AND VIOLENCE: DRONE SHADOWS

In this blog post, our lead mediator for DESIGN AND VIOLENCE, Ryan Coyne, take us through the construction of Drone Shadows exhibits in public spaces around Dublin.IFrame

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are becoming more and more frequent in conflict zones. For many people around the world, UAVs are a far-flung reality. Drone Shadows, a lifesize replica artwork by the writer, publisher, artist, and technologist James Bridle, is an interesting way in which to bring the subject to the public’s attention and create a conversation around drones.

The drawings have appeared around the world, from Brighton to Washington and, now, Dublin, as part of the exhibition DESIGN AND VIOLENCE. Drones have the potential to create mass casualties, and it is important to feature these unmanned spy machines in an area of the world where they aren’t an everyday sight.

Installing these simplistic looking drawings wasn’t without logistical challenges. Our first hurdle was deciding where to draw out the Drone Shadows, as they needed to able to be viewed from a height. Some proposed sites included Dublin Airport, Grand Canal Theatre and Three Arena. From a brain-stormed list of fifteen sites, we picked three areas: Smithfield Square, Store Street and Meeting House Square.

Next, we pitched the idea and proposed sites to Dublin City Council. Now, you may also be hesitant at the thoughts of letting 20-somethings run around the city and spray paint military drones on their streets; the local authorities understandably were. We let them know that we would use semi-permanent chalk spray paint that would wash off after a few weeks, and they were very understanding and accommodating. That brings us to our next obstacle: obtaining semi-permanent chalk spray paint, not your everyday item that could be bought from the corner shop. After running around and calling to all manner of hardware stores and paint suppliers, we eventually located our much-desired paint in an aerosol can just before we needed to set out to construct our Smithfield Square drone.

img_5475_0.jpg

Right, so we had Dublin City Council approval, we had all our equipment, we had our build team… now, we needed to figure out how to create this mammoth unmanned vehicle on the ground. We had a small straight-line stencil and a tarp stencil that was cut out into the shape of the head and tail of the beast, but we needed to connect them all together. This involved a lot of secondary-school maths, including Pythagoras’s theorem — I know, we never thought we’d use that in the real world, but there you go.

You might be thinking there’s one missing factor that may have impeded our swift completion of these drawings; something every Irish person must battle with… the weather! After the completion of the Smithfield Square drone, the weather began to turn. Winter had arrived. Build days were pushed back because of sudden snow and rain. Thankfully, our patience paid off and we were gifted a one-day window of no rain after weeks of bad weather. We set off for Store Street, dealing with delayed taxis, lugging around large equipment by hand and answering queries from inquisitive Gardaí, wondering why we were constructing an outline of a massive drone outside their station.

Finally, the last drone was completed in Meeting House Square as the light was fading and the unanticipated rain started to fall. We finished the drawing and quickly scampered around frantically to fill in rain-washed areas of the drone, while wildly sprinting around and sheltering freshly painted areas with the stencil — all to get the perfect photograph, which you can see below.

You can find out more about Drone Shadows here and at DESIGN AND VIOLENCE