video by Soledad Productions

by Graduate Thesis Students - Marcin Balicki and James Cruickshanks

2002 was the first year that the Cooper Union School of Engineering participated in the end-of-year Student Exhibitions, joining the long-time tradition of the Schools of Art and Architecture. Among the engineering projects exhibited was an interactive telerobotic installation created by James Cruickshanks and Marcin Balicki, graduate students of the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Upon entering the first Floor Lobby space, a visitor found themselves at a control station consisting of a computer with two monitors. One of the monitors displayed the interface console which controlled Bruno, the large robot. A visitor can control Bruno's physical locomotion as well as the pan, tilt and zoom features of his camera while he roams the gallery on the lower level. The visitor can also initiate the robot to speak by typing in text which becomes speech for the robot. The second monitor shows the visitor what the robot is seeing and has accompanying speakers so that the visitor can also hear what takes place in the downstairs gallery. This first floor lobby control station also had a hidden camera which made the user visible to visitors downstairs.

Bruno is accompanied by three smaller robots, traveling close to the floor and equipped with a camera. These robots are programmed to roam the lower level floor and interact with visitors.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the lower gallery a visitor may not necessarily realize they are engaged, through Bruno, in an interactive relationship with the visitor upstairs. Inevitably they will come upon a monitor which reveals that they are indeed, engaged in mutual surveillance and interchangeable communication. Each person may be under the impression that the communication is one-way, that they are the observer and not the observed. But that is not the case.