Nature Bot

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How can technology be used to embed elements of nature into built environments?

Nature Bot is a two-part, interactive art installation that uses technology to facilitate a remote exploration of nature through a remote controlled robot with video link, whilst simultaneously reflecting the exploration through a kinetic reactive sculpture within a local built environment.

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Users navigate a natural environment via a remote control robot. A colour histogram is created from the video stream from the natural environment. Colour blooms correspond to the colours in the histogram, and open and close based on the amount of that colour in the image.

Nature Bot asks how technology can be used to embed elements of nature into our built environments? It asks what nature is, what our relationship is to it, and if it is possible to extract elements of it.


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The kinetic installation in the built environment is a series of 7 opening and closing blooms, each actuated by a stepper motor. The motor position depends on the colour in the image of the video stream.

The bloom sculptures use a popup paper structure provided as open source resources by paper artist Peter Dahmen. The popup structure is constructed of many layers of folded paper that can be slotted together. The mechanism is not reliant on the outer shape of the paper, and so the outline shape was reinterpreted to incorporate patterns and shapes found in nature as well as influences found in art and science illustrations, including Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations.

The mechanics for opening the blooms is a cam wheel on which a hinged ‘door’ rests, using gravity to fall open when the cam wheel is down, and is pushed closed when the cam wheel rotates.

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Nature Bot was developed alongside the Attention Restoration Theory (ART), as a way to harnesses the beneficial properties of ‘wild nature.’  The project presents a unique approach to using technology to mediate a sense of immersive connection to nature, providing the user with agency within an external natural environment.

Nature Bot was developed whilst I was visiting researcher at Culture Lab, Newcastle University, in the Digital Interaction Group with David Kirk.

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