for whom: Marco Tempest

where: TED

when: 2014

with whom: MIT Media Lab

for what: in 2013 Marco Tempest became a director’s fellow at MIT Media Lab and, during this collaboration, he started to investigate instinctive ways to interact with robots. This research led to the decision to create a performance where a robot would interact with him in real time and even assist him in doing magical tricks.
Marco acquired a Baxter robot and, with the help of Media Lab’s researchers, he modified it with custom manipulators and various special devices.
When the hardware was ready, the robot still needed a software suite capable of handling its new theatrical tasks and that’s when I jumped into the project. I worked side by side with David Nuñez, Personal Robotics researcher at MIT: he took care of the ROS side of things, while I used OpenFrameworks to create a toolset that would work both as performance controller and as an authoring environment.
After a few months of work we had a robot that could interact in close proximity with humans, was able to perform magic tricks and could be trained either using a computer or learning from a direct haptic manipulation of its limbs.
Marco named our newborn synthetic creature EDI (Electronic Deceptive Intelligence) and in march 2014 succesfully performed with it on TED’s stage.

pubblications: check out EDI’s page at the Media Lab’s website to learn more about the ongoing research.