PATHOS was initiated in 2015 by Indo-Danish artist duo Pors & Rao. The aim is to provide nontechnical people with access to robotic animation, working towards new possibilities for visual culture and artistic practice.
Hidden in the nuances of our everyday movements and gestures is a rich subconscious language that reveals our complex inner states. This human language has not yet entered the field of mainstream robotics which is more focused on solving manual tasks efficiently and less on its performative potential as a medium for human communication. Industrial robotics technology often comes with a strong machine aesthetic (both spatially and auditive) which is necessary to erase for it to serve as a blank canvas for visual expression.
The aim is to develop an open, platform-independent animatronics framework that is universal, modular and accessible in real-time through a user-friendly browser interface forming the basis of the Being Kits. These are the three focus areas:
The project explores robotics as a physical language of affective motion and response where the technology serves as a new visual medium for the individual.
Approaching physical movement as communication is at the heart of the project – particularly the notion of a sentient presence where states of mind are revealed through the nuances of physical behavior.
A key aspect of the platform PATHOS is the ability to control motion and behaviour parameters through intuitive interfaces, thereby removing the need for complicated and expensive engineering softwares.
By making robotic animation accessible to artists and designers, the project hopes to build toward a large spectrum of movement- from naturalistic to stylized and personal interpretations. It encourages the development of personal signatures, where the ‘hand’ of the animator can be recognizable solely by the stylistic qualities of movement.
PATHOS came about as a collaboration between the art studio Pors & Rao in India and various institutions within the Swiss engineering eco-system. The project originated at NTB Buchs in 2015, migrated to the Wyss Zurich Institute in 2017 and became the Robotics Aesthetics & Usability Center, a two-year pilot at ETHZ in 2020; supported by the Gebert Ruef Foundation and Faulhaber Minimotor.
The two decades-long technical difficulties faced by Pors & Rao inform the project. Many of our works are conceived as a kind of 'being' with basic behavior traits such as shyness, fatigue and dependency; highlighting involuntary aspects of human behavior and relationships. Some works imply a kind of pre-conceptual way of perceiving the world, where emotions and thoughts are projected onto the things around us — as if everything was conscious.
Aparna Rao, Søren Pors, porsandrao.com
Nested at Wyss Zurich & Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL), ETHZ
With support by Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Faulhaber Minimotor, Maxon Motor