The Aim of the Project:
The aim of the project was to create 'intelligent life-likeness' in the form of an aesthetically pleasing, human-shaped, interactive machine. The machine 'Cyclops', named after Greek legend, gazes at the audience to give them a memorable experience. Through this audience-robot interaction, onlookers are given an insight into the 'intelligence of a machine'.
From a design point of view, the goal was to create a new aesthetic language for robotic products; firstly, mainstream robots currently available on the market were analysed, then, from this research, a new approach was devised in pursuit of the original goal.
The Design Concept of Cyclops:
As mentioned above, the aim of the project was to create 'intelligent life-likeness' in the form of an aesthetically pleasing, human-shaped, interactive machine. Two key aspects of this are eye movement and flexible body motion. These aspects were set within the design brief in order to accomplish this aim. Cyclops is unable to walk or dance as other robots do; this is so as not to detract from the two criteria. Cyclops only bends and shifts its body to stare at the audience.
Design concept 1 - Eye movement:
The single eye is designed to maximise the tension of the interaction. Since the direction of the eye expresses where Cyclops'attention lies, it provides strong feedback in relation to the audience's behaviour. The eye movements provide insight as to the intelligence of Cyclops in the audience's mind. Previous audiences have been known to dance in front of Cyclops in order to grab its attention. These audiences understood Cyclops to be a creature rather than a robot or- alternatively, they used the creature metaphor to understand Cyclops.
Design Concept 2 - Flexible Body Motion:
The movement of Cyclops is very flexible. Cyclops slowly bends and shifts its upper body to track an object. The subtle movement is similar to that of a human, as it has a similar spinal structure. Specifically, Cyclops'spine is equipped with fifteen spherical joints and fifty artificial muscles. The flexibility provided by this spine means its movements are very different from that of other mechanical objects.
In terms of technical specification, the technology of Cyclops is very limited. It has three sets of infrared sensors and a CCD camera to acquire information. The movements are then controlled by a motor and thirty-two air valves. Cyclops doesn't walk, raise its hands or speak. It only rotates at the neck and bends its upper body. Cyclops shows that technological limitations need not limit the life-likeness of an object.
Design Development - Exhibition:
We believe that current robot design lacks sophistication. Hence, we have taken a fresh approach. Firstly, we have tried to design the internal functioning components as beautiful and harmonious objects. Secondly, we have removed the usual covering panels to emphasise this distinctive beauty. The vertebrae, the muscles and the pneumatic tubes are exposed. This allows the audience to observe how the muscles expand and the spine moves. The direct connection between function and appearance gives a strong visual impact.
Perspective - Future Robot Design:
In the same way that the radio has been gradually developed from a piece of furniture into a compact, refined product that may take on a huge variety of forms, so robots will stop imitating humans and other creatures. Robots will develop their own rational forms to suit their technological functions and specific applications. We believe that this project has helped to show that human metaphors don't help us to understand emerging robot technologies. Cyclops is a proposition that we should start a fresh journey in search of an original aesthetic. There is now a unique new class of product - robots - and we are only starting to develop new forms to realise this.