Movement and text are ancient interfaces that people
respond to regardless of their gender or ethnicity.
In the Fish-Bird project, the robots use movement to
convey awareness – for example, they turn to face
a person entering the installation space. Changes of
speed and direction are used to convey mood and intention.
A robot indicates dissatisfaction or frustration during
interaction with a human or robot participant by accelerating
to a distant corner, where it remains facing the walls
until its ‘mood’ changes.
The manner in which the participants move in the space,
their proximity to the robots, and the time spent with
them determines the behaviour of the robots towards
them. In a way, human participants try to read the ‘body
language’ of the robots and the robots the body
language of the participants. Fish-Bird has seven behavioural
patterns based on the seven days of the week. For example,
they seem to be more ‘happy’ and ‘energetic’
on a Friday and they tend to be more ‘lethargic’
on a Monday. The way that the robots interact with a
participant depends on six basic conditions: a) the
day of the week; b) the state of the ‘relationship’
between the robots; c) how they ‘feel’ about
themselves; d) how much time the participant spends
in the installation space; e) his/her proximity to the
robots and f) his/her ‘body language.’
Overt communication between the robots and human participants
occurs through the medium of written text. Miniature
thermal printers integrated with the wheel chairs to
produce the ‘handwritten’ text. A text phrase
is assembled from digitized bitmaps of the glyphs in
the chosen fonts, and printed sideways onto a slip of
paper that is cut and released to fall to the floor.
Several of these slips of paper can be seen in the photo
on the previous page, and
the printer can be seen mounted at the right side of
the wheelchair in the adjacent photo.
Each wheelchair writes in a cursive font that reflects
its ‘personality.’ Different fonts also
serve as a practical cue that assists the audience to
identify existing text written by a particular character.
The written messages are subdivided into two categories:
personal messages communicated between the two robots,
and messages written by a robot to a human participant.
Personal messages are selected from fragments of love-letters
offered by friends, from the poetry of Anna Akhmatova,
and from text composed by Velonaki. Text can also be
composed by the system in real time.