Sunday, 13 July 2014

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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Marionette Meets Robot

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A clothing retailer at Tokyo's airport now features MarionetteBots in their storefront.  The MarionetteBot is part mannequin and part robot.  Using Kinect technology, wires and motors, the Bots are able to mimic the body movements of passersby.

Far from eliciting the uncanny and uncomfortable responses (roboticists refer to this as the uncanny valley) from the public, people featured here seem very willing to engage with the MarionetteBot and seem to regard them as pleasurable and entertaining. Perhaps it is the conscious use of marionette string that provides a bit of comfort against the sudden animation of the MarionetteBot.

Very clever and charming, I see this as yet another small encroachment of robotics into daily life.

This video also reminds me the 1987 film, Mannequin (Kim Cattrell) as well as the more recent Lars and the Real Girl (2007) with its emphasis on the fantasy of high fashion and aesthetic beauty.

The advertising agency who conceived of the MarionetteBots is TBWA Haduhodo and the Marionettes were created by Shoichiro Matsuoka.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Enduring Pathalogical Feminine Machine

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Excerpt from an article I have written called:  Pathological Machine

Sean Redmond[1] distinguishes between a humanist and a pathological cyborg.  Redmond argues that the humanist cyborg works in collaboration with human beings and longs to understand the emotional complexity of humanity, yet never seems to quite achieve unity of “the corporeal to the technological.”[2]  Star Trek’s Data may be thought of as the exemplary humanist cyborg.  Conversely, the pathological cyborg is relentless in its “will to power…The pathological cyborg wants nothing more than the complete genocide of the human race.”[3]  Pathological seems to best describe the dominant representation of the female cyborg on film and in television, most often characterized as hypersexual, dangerous, and disruptive.[4]  

[1] Sean Redmond, ed., Liquid Metal (London: Wallflower Press, 2004).
[2] Ibid., 156.
[3] Ibid.
[4]  Fritz Lang, "Metropolis,"  (Paramount Picture, 1927); Ridley Scott, "Bladerunner,"  (Warner Brothers, 1982); Duncan Gibbons, "Eve of Destruction,"  (Orion Pictures, 1991); James Cameron, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,"  (Warner Brothers, 2003).

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Robo Aesthetic in Advertising and Film

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The history of female robots in film/TV requires only a small introduction and many classics come to mind when thinking about iconic robotic women: Bladerunner, Cherry 2000, Metropolis, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, Stepford Wives, Tecknolust, Sarah Connors Chronicles, and so on.

There is also a growing trend towards co-opting a cool and technologically savvy robotic aesthetic in other areas of popular culture as well, including advertising and music.


Absolut Vodka features pack of robotic dogs and combines house music and a steam punk influenced group of futuristic youth to create a brand image that combines to reflect techno prowess and high fashion.

The female Svedka robot has been around awhile.  "Make your next trophy wife 100% titanium" reads the tag line. This type of marketing draws from the fembot as pleasure machine iconography so familiar in such charaters a Pris of Bladerunner.  I think that the Svedka robot girl looks like the hyper feminized version of the robots featured in I Robot.

For a period of time, Beyonce definitely liked to add robotic aspects to her shows and videos. Here she takes her robo-fashion cues from the 1927 film classic Metropolis.

Beyonce as Maria from Metropolis?

Christina Aguilera's recent album Bionic features her as a cyborg beauty.

Lady Gaga's Paparazzi Video features aspects of robotics combined with disability.

The idea of the machine woman has been around in Western culture for hundreds of years, dating all the way back to Homer's Illiad and the 19th literature of Mary Shelley, ETA Hoffman and Auguste de Viliers de L'Isle-Adam's. Freud takes inspiration for his theory of the uncanny from Hoffman's robotic woman Olympia.  Descartes' is rumoured to have built a replica of his diseased daughter Francine.