The Paparazzi Bots are a series of five autonomous robots each standing at the height of the average human. Comprised of multiple cameras, sensors and robotic actuators on a custom-built rolling platform, they move at the speed of a walking human, avoiding walls and obstacles while using infrared sensors to move toward humans. They seek one thing, which is to capture photos of people and to make these images available to the press and the world wide web as a statement of culture's obsession with the “celebrity image” and especially our own images. The flash autonomously goes off, capturing people’s photos and elevating them to “celebrity” in a kind of momentary anointing by the robots. The robots also become celebrities through their association to the “famous people” at the exhibition that are captured by the Paparazzi Bots.
Each autonomous robot will make the decision to take the photos of particular people, while ignoring other humans in the exhibition, based on things such as, whether or not the viewers are smiling or the shape of their smile. When the robots identify a person or group they will automatically adjust their focus to and the robots stop and use a series of bright flashes to record that moment.
Surveillance technologies straddle a delicate balance that we have in contemporary culture, where we are all photographed without our knowledge by cell phones, hidden cameras and sometimes “celebritized”. This is a kind of modern baptism with the camera flash and the spectacle of being the focus of the camera becoming a kind of techno anointing.
This work explores ideas surrounding the shifting territories of self and machine and how machines can manipulate the other (us) in a grand co-evolutionary dance of emerging robot-human relations.
The recent emergence of social networks and their ability to connect people through software prompts via the world wide web is a prime example of the co-evolution of humans and their intelligent machines. The fact that the software prompts exploit our social needs for connectivity and social space is so easily exploited is new critical juncture in our emerging machine human relations.
By Ken Rinaldo