BRL projects featuring robotics using puppetry and avatars at Being There showcase

Issue date: 02 September 2016

Being There showcase

Tuesday 13 September 10:00 to 16:00 at Watershed digital creativity centre, Bristol

Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) projects will feature at the 'Being There' showcase on Tuesday 13 September 2016, at Watershed digital creativity centre in Bristol.

The Being There showcase will celebrate three years of collaborative Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded research across the country questioning, innovating and exploring the opportunities and challenges that arise when humans and robots share public space.

Dr Paul Bremner and Peter Gibbons from BRL have investigated Laboratory Tele-operated Robots – with public spaces playing such a valuable role in shared understanding and common purpose, this project reveals the social and technological potential of being able to appear in public in avatar form.

Dr Bremner explains, “Controlled remotely, a tele-operator will be able to see through the robot's eyes and speak through its mouth, while directing where it looks and how it moves. The aim is for the robot to be an avatar for a remote person who would be able to take part in the same activities as those actually present at an event, lifting the barriers to participation that exist for a number of groups including the ill, disabled and those living in remote areas.”

To find out more click here

Dr Bremner is also showcasing a collaboration between BRL, Rusty Squid (robotic artists and designers) and Dr Chris Bevan from the University of Bath called Puppet Presence. This project explores what robotic tele-presence research can learn from the art puppetry via a motion capture puppet that enables direct puppeteering of an Aldebaran Nao humanoid robot.

Dr Bremner said, “Three professional puppeteers animate the puppet by hand, their movements captured, animating the Nao robot which in effect becomes its human substitute. But is it possible for humans to develop a trustworthy and meaningful representation in public through robotic avatars? To find out more click here

Being There is a four-year project funded by the EPSRC, which brought together five collaborative teams of researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge (formerly at Queen Mary University of London) and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory who have been working in collaboration with Watershed and a diverse range of creative practitioners to produce original work using state-of-the-art technologies to explore some of current themes in robotics.

Watershed's Creative Director, Clare Reddington, and Being There project lead Professor Mark Levine (University of Exeter), will open the showcase together with celebrated British designer Sebastian Conran who will give the keynote speech.

The robotic romp will feature presentations from the Being There robotics researchers, quick fire sharing sessions with the project leads, spanning technology, engineering, psychology and security.

There will also be opportunities to play with some commissioned robot games, and even dance with robotlets. The showcase will culminate in a Robot Cabaret featuring three fantastical robot performances hosted by Bill Thompson of BBC Click.

Clare Reddington, Creative Director, Watershed says, “We are excited to showcase the projects, ideas and unique collaboration methods created across Being There with the public at this free event in Watershed this September. Giving people a chance to engage with cutting edge research in a fun and approachable way is a proven way to invite new people into the conversation about the role of robotics in our future”.

For full details of the Being There event see or see the Watershed news.

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