Robotic Echoes

Technology x Art x Culture

These Tiny Robots are a work-in-progress of an experimental collaboration between Hemma Philamore, Lecturer in Robotics at the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Dominique Vyborna, founder of EmpressVR.

Hemma has specialisms in soft, energy-autonomous and bio-hybrid robots. She develops robots for exploring and investigating the natural world and works with artists and performers on interactive artworks combining sound, touch, and play. 

Dominique just really wants to give folks the experience of what it feels like to be a Tiny Robot in VR, exploring a big exciting world! 

As Dominique was exploring virtual reality use cases during MA coursework at the University of the West of England, she began to play with ideas around creating a tiny robot with VR First Person Viewer (FPV) Controls. In mid-2000s, as a welder and Project Manager on large scale sculptures while living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she shared communities with machine performance groups such as Survival Research Laboratories. Her concept for a Tiny Robots project is deliberately antithetical to the destructive and aggressive nature of Robot Wars and other robot-related cultural zeitgeists. Dominique's intention is to remove robotics from this utilitarian and fear-inducing narrative simply by including principles such as curiosity, exploration, and playfulness during the design process. 

Prototype 1: Used a Samsung Gear 360 camera, with a basic robot chassis. After some testing it was determined that having a live feed video sphere in Unity would not be possible with this camera option. Additionally, through experimentation with 360° test videos, some alterations in the robot mounting design were implemented in our second prototype design.

Prototype 2: Currently using a Ricoh Theta Z1 360° camera on a basic robot chassis, we created a wired live-feed 360° video sphere in Unity, which can be view with a Meta Quest 2 VR headset. The robot is controlled with the movements of the participant, when they stand inside the 360° video sphere.