Paul Granjon creates robotic artworks that explore the non-utilitarian possibilities of the interaction between humans and intelligent machines. Of particular interest is the space opened up once one considers the non-benign aspects of human–machine interaction that are largely absent from commercial and scientific social robotics fields. Granjon’s works may be seen as continuations of the ‘maverick machines’ produced by the artist Gordon Pask in his experimental cybernetic projects of the 1960s.
Guido the Robot Guide, 2015; Am I Robot?, 2016–17.
From 2015–17, Granjon led an experiment in human–robot interaction with two subsequent artworks that featured functional robots operating in public spaces. Both Guido the Robot Guide and Am I Robot? were produced in order to see how the gap of non-benign, non-utilitarian intelligent machines might begin to be explored and, in particular, to witness the form that speculative human–robot interaction might take when faced with non-benign, non-utilitarian intelligent machines.
Guido the Robot Guide, is a robotic artwork commissioned by and exhibited in the MUDAM Museum, Luxemburg in 2015-16 for the Eppur Si Muove exhibition produced in collaboration with the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris. The robot was made in collaboration with a computer science engineering team from l’Ecole des Mines de Nancy, France. The concept was an irreverent robot that would guide visitors to an art-science exhibition, presenting the exhibits with a robot’s perspective. The robot was made in collaboration with a computer science engineering team from l’Ecole des Mines de Nancy, France. The concept was an irreverent robot that would guide visitors to an art-science exhibition, presenting the exhibits with a robot’s perspective. The robot would switch transparently from autonomous mode to operator control (hybrid control), allowing for seamless natural interaction.
The main shortcomings of Guido were the lack of an operational remote-controlled telepresent mode, and of staffing for enabling the telepresent mode. This led to the design and fabrication of a second installation, Am I Robot? This work was commissioned by Manchester Art Gallery for The Imitation Game, an exhibition by artists investigating the notion of intelligent machines. Unlike Guido, Am I Robot? was fully designed and built by Granjon. The installation comprises two parts: a mobile robot called Combover Jo and a semi-concealed robot-control room accessible to visitors. A video excerpt showing Combover Jo in operation can be seen here. This robot was designed to inhabit the same physical space as the humans and uttering statements fed to them by concealed human speakers, with the aim of leading visitors to reflect critically on their expectations of machines.
An account of the two works Am I Robot? and Guido the Robot Guide can be found in Granjon’s 2018 conference paper ‘Guido and Am I Robot? A Case Study of Two Robotic Artworks Operating in Public Spaces’, published in the proceedings of the International Conference on Live Interfaces, 2018, Porto, Portugal. The background to the two works Am I Robot? and Guido the Robot Guide is given in Granjon’s 2016 paper ‘This Machine Could Bite: On the Role of Non-Benign Art Robots’, The Fibreculture Journal 28, pp. 74–108.
Guido the Robot Guide was funded by Mudam Luxemburg, Fondation Mines Nancy, Artem Entreprises, Le Grand Nancy, LORIA, KPMG Luxembourg, Cardiff School of Art and Design. Am I Robot? was funded by Manchester Art Gallery, the Arts Council of England, the Henry Moore Foundation, Manchester International Festival.
Further information on Paul Granjon’s work can be found on his website.