“Flying Pantograph” transposes human-scale drawing acts to a physically remote output canvas in different scales and aesthetics. A drone becomes an “expression agent” – modified to carry a pen and be controlled by human motions, then carries out the actual process of drawing on a vertical wall. Not only mechanically extending a human artist, the drone plays a crucial part of the expression as its own motion dynamics and software intelligence add new visual language to the art. This agency forms a strong link between a human artist and the canvas, however, in the same time, is a deliberate programmatic disconnect that offers space for exploiting machine aesthetics as a core expression medium.
The project explores an art form where machines take essential role in aesthetics and processes of the creation. The main theme can be summarized as “body, hybrid, and “evolve” – as we create an artistic medium that incorporates mechanical machines that institutes a hybrid creation process as well as an expressive capacity beyond body limits.
The seemingly straightforward technical realization is in fact a combination of non-trivial mechanical and algorithmic solutions. The drone, a floating machine, is relying on a slim chance of stabilization acquired by battling the vortex of air, the pressure and friction on the canvas surface, and the capricious mind of the human artist. This suspense, the vulnerability to instability and the aftermath of crashing, poses a contrast with the optimistic idea of technologically evolved capability of a human artist.
S. Leigh*, H. Agrawal*, and P. Maes. A Flying Pantograph: Interleaving Expressivity of Human and Machine, TEI 2016 Arts Exhibition, 2016 (*equal contribution)
We put it up as exhibition at two places- the MIT Hub Week and the TEI Conference in Eindhoven.
It was particularly rewarding and fun to see kids use the tool during a public exhibition at MIT. They seemed take it up so naturally!
A drawing created by artist Sougwen Chung:
We used 2 different drones to implement the system- beginning with the AR Parrot Drone and moving to the DJI Phantom 3 drone. Both of them offered different amount of sturdiness and how to interface with the drone to control it.
The AR Parrot drone had means of being controlled over Wifi commands from a server computer. For the DJI Phantom, we had to go through some hacking to get inside its controller (joystick). That was fun to pull off.
Here is an image of the hacked controller (the ghost-breaker):