University of Sussex Media Release.
. Large insect-like robot to be created as part of innovative digital arts project

06 April 2001
For immediate release

A groundbreaking project has just been launched that will bring an exciting new dimension to the performing arts using computer technology.

Sci-art: Bio-robotic Choreography is an initiative that brings together artists, roboticists and technicians for an intriguing exploration of human/machine relationships.

Dr Inman Harvey from the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at the University of Sussex has joined forces with Nottingham Trent University to pioneer the project, which will involve the development of a massive insect-like robot large enough to support a human, where the intelligence is not in the brain but in the dynamics of its legs.

The robot, designed by Dr Harvey, will have the ability to work in partnership with a human body to experiment with alternative kinds of choreography. The aim is to explore more compliant and flexible ways of interaction between the body and the machine.

Bringing his expertise and experience to Sci-art is world-renowned performance artist Stelarc. Over the last 30 years, the Australian has gained acclaim for his examination of the body's capabilities and experiences through augmentation and extension using prosthetics, robotics, virtual reality systems and the Internet.

Science previously met art in 1998 when Stelarc was in residence at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics. During his visit he demonstrated a robotic arm controlled by his muscles, using electrodes inserted into his abdomen and legs.

Commenting on the Sci-art project, Stelarc explained: "The body is not merely a passenger on the robot. The smart robot design will result in a more subtle interface. The robot's mode of locomotion, its direction and speed are actuated by the shifting of the body's weight and the twisting of the torso."

The project has been awarded funding from the Wellcome Trust - the world's most prominent medical research charity, which also supports science and art collaborations.

The 13-month project will conclude with a series of performances to be held in Brighton, Nottingham and London.

Notes for editors
1. Dr Inman Harvey can be contacted on 01273 678431, Fax 01273 671320, email inmanh@cogs.susx.ac.uk.
2. For further information, please contact Alison Field or Peter Simmons, University of Sussex, tel. 01273 678888, fax 01273 877456, email A.Field@sussex.ac.uk or P.J.Simmons@sussex.ac.uk.

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