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Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan: Empathy Swarm

Watch as 50 roaming robots all try to adapt their behaviour in response to your presence.
By Sarah Ward
September 02, 2019
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Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan: Empathy Swarm

Watch as 50 roaming robots all try to adapt their behaviour in response to your presence.
By Sarah Ward
September 02, 2019
  shares

Whether a robot can pass for human has been the subject of many a science-fiction film, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Whether a robot can still elicit sympathetic feelings if it doesn't actually look anything like a human — well, that's a different question entirely. It's one that plenty of movies have covered as well, if you're instantly thinking about cute Star Wars droids like R2-D2 and BB-8. But finding CGI pieces of metal adorable and interacting with real machinery are two completely different experiences.

At QUT Art Museum's latest installation, you can witness the experiment in action. The result of Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan's European research project, Empathy Swarm ponders how people and robots co-exist — and, specifically, if non-anthropomorphic robots can connect with humans, and demonstrate compassionate responses in response to their presence. A group of 50 droids will try to do just that, so you might just leave with 50 new robotic friends.

The immersive exhibition involves entering a dark room, where the swarm of glowing robots all await. They're able to adapt their behaviour to your emotions, so no one will have the same experience twice.

Free to attend, Empathy Swarm is on display Tuesday–Friday between 10am–5pm and Saturday–Sunday from 12–4pm.

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