Mawhrin-Skel is a fictional character - an intelligent drone that, having failed to meet the conditions of its original purpose, is decommissioned and left to wander aimlessly through a near utopian environment where it becomes a social nuisance and prankster. This character - invented by Ian M Banks in his 1989 novel "The Player of Games" - provides an interesting social and cultural entry point into the study of robots as both cultural artifacts and autonomous members of society.
In related workshops at Vancouver BCs Western Front, the artists will customize circuits by altering the language of the controller, adding sculptural components (static and moveable) adding sensor components, and designing behaviours. These objects are intended to sit on window sills, desk corners, over doorways, nailed to a post on the back deck, in the gravel pit in the basement, etc. The wireless Internet connection allows the devices to talk to each other and mingle their conversations on the web. The "eyes" of one machine can influence the actions of another. Keywords can generate furious activity or silence.
Robots typically have industrial applications - wireless mines that can dig their way out of the earth and move to a "better" location, machines that cleanup radioactive waste or other hazardous material, surveillance equipment, toasters, coffee makers, etc. It is unusual to build a robot that doesn't have an overt industrial purpose - it may be decorative, dysfunctional, nailed to a tree and bleeping. It exists purely to raise questions about industrial and technological philosophies and ethics in our society. This project examines ideas of function, autonomy, artificial intelligence and purpose-driven technology.