Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Printing eyeballs

Facsimile body parts disturb me, and this week I have been more disturbed that usual as the students who I work with in Colab (formerly known as AUT's Interdisciplinary Unit), have been printing eyeballs.

Using a combination of Solid Works, 3D printing machines and Arduino, they have been creating eyes that stare, blink and wink. Why? Because their final studio project is based on animatronics - that weird interdisciplinary field dedicated to creating simulacrum. In the space between real, and imaginary, lies the beasts from movies and themeparks... 21st century Frankensteinian creations that are cute when representative of the imaginary (dragons and aliens), but disturbing when the come close to replicating the so-called real i.e. humans and animals.

Masahiro Mori (one of the theorists in this area), talks about the 'uncanny valley'. He puts forward the idea that the closer that robots become to appearing life-like or 'real', the more uncanny they are and less affinity there is with them. Robots should not duplicate nature too closely as, paradoxically, the creations become less believable and more disturbing. I wonder if this disturbance is our brain struggling to make sense of slighly un-natural movements or sensations - or perhaps there is a theological boundary that is being unconsciously crossed where we feel somehow disturbed by humans treading on the territory of our Gods. Who knows, but if you want to feel truly unnerved I suggest a few of the following videos: baby; assorted monsters; human head. Nice.

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