Ryerson University’s Design and Technology Lab. A 1245 kg robotic arm is waiting to create art with you inside its workshop, which seems to be an incredibly safe proposition in the face of COVID. What’s more, this particular robotic rig will work behind a glass window, making it even more pandemic-friendly.
This project is carried out via a QR code must be visible that once you scan the code, a website will direct you there, asking you to draw anything on your computer screen. What you write here will be included in the installation as seen through the lab window.
Initial sketches made by other guests will be projected next to a photograph of your small artwork on an interior wall. A cube-shaped screen has been attached to the end of the robotic arm, where the robot will reproduce each of the drawings submitted by users and transform them into 3D images before projecting them one at a time inside.
This year’s DesignTO Festival featured several exhibitions, including the Assembly Line project. It is a joint effort of the Design + Technology LAB staff and the students of the RTA School of Media.
The idea is to highlight how fluid collaboration with robots and machines can be. While doodling, visitors might realise what other creative types have discovered: this technology can make all sorts of things possible.
Jonathon Anderson, associate professor of interior design and director of the Design + Technology LAB, certainly feels this way. “The potential for these robots to be employed within the creative business is really limitless, and there’s certainly a rich history that speaks to that,” he says. You may have heard last week that there is an industrial robot on Twitter that has gained notoriety for its artistic endeavours. Some artistically inclined bots want to make you dance, while others simply want to create images.
The scope of what can be achieved is what, according to Anderson, makes the technology so powerful. We can now print entire pieces of furniture. Houses printed in concrete are a reality. He claims that any object can be attached to a robotic arm. Give the robot a pencil and it will draw non-stop and with near-perfect accuracy.
The Assembly Line machine is actually one of three industrial robots that students can use in the Design + Technology LAB. It is the largest of the three. Most of the year, the robot is active and engaged in creative work, according to Anderson. The robots are involved in the lab’s research initiatives, as well as being used as a manufacturing tool, performing operations including 3D printing, hot wire cutting and milling.
The lab’s equipment could be considered to have a personality of its own. The centrepiece of Assembly Line is a KUKA KR150, which the lab bought from a BMW plant three years ago and named Mies Van Der Rohbot after the famous mid-century designer Mies Van Der Rohe.
Assembly Line is one of several window installations appearing as part of this year’s DesignTO Festival.