At Robotic Petting Zoo, 'Animals' Touch Back
Even if petting zoos were truly reciprocal, we probably don’t really want a goat caressing a four-year-old. But that’s not the case for the “animals” at a new robotic petting zoo.
Developed by London-based experimental architecture and design studio Minimaforms, the life-like robotic habitat features intelligent creatures that have been designed to learn and explore behaviors via interactions with zoo visitors.
Recently exhibited at France’s FRAC Center, the petting zoo included a “robotic creature with three luminous, flexible, vibrant and sonic tentacles that can be stroked like any live animal. Each of these tentacles has its own features and ‘personalities’ that evolve according to contextual and environmental parameters. Individual and collective participation, recorded by digital cameras and mobile interfaces, is translated in real time in the very behavior of the articulated structures,” according to a press release from Minimaforms.
To track the awareness of participants and identify each visitor’s physical presence, the installation used Kinect cameras and Process, a data-scanning program. Real-time camera streams were processed and combined with tracking and optical flow analysis to locate the position and gestures of each visitor.
So if you’ve ever wanted to interact with what looks like a robotic cross between an elephant’s truck and a giant jellyfish, Minimaform’s petting zoo just may be the place for you.