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Introducing: MechaDarwin

The Pirate and I went to the Survival Research Labs show on Friday. It was BIG. It was LOUD. It was mechanofierylicious. There's a lot to be said for large cannons shooting flames and big walking robots grabbing stuff and tesla coils as tall as my house (from certain angles).

EDIT: I forgot to say that while at the show, I got to sit next to our very own mootmom!! As the Pirate and I were walking along looking for a place to sit, I looked into the bleachers and there she was! It was serendipitous indeed, and if you're going to a giant exploding robot show, there's no one better to sit next to than a woman who appreciates a good exploding robot.

But then I started thinking. There came a time during the show where there was just so much going on - here there was a giant fiery ball, there a gold statue peeing gasoline, over here a little teapot spouting flames and yonder a little armored car shooting cannonballs of noise - I had no idea where to look and knew that wherever I directed my attention, I'd be missing out on something. It's an infuriating sensation.

A lot of the things that SRL did generated noise - BOOM! Hooooooooonk! FWOOOOSH! They were great noises and had the potential to be musical in a sort of Wagnerian sense. They also had individual robots that did amazing stuff - grabbed things and shot fire and walked around and grabbed things while shooting fire and walking around - but the whole thing lacked cohesion.

I wanted some kind of orchestration, some kind of choreography that meant that things made some kind of sense or had some kind of narrative flow. I don't know if the SRL group are big opera buffs, but they should be. What they have are the makings of a grand opera, but they've got all the players on stage at the same time, punching each other in the face and shouting their lines. Not that opera stars punching each other in the face isn't grand spectacle, but it could be better.

The Pirate and I have decided that it's time to enter the artistic fray. What we're envisioning is NOT SRL. I don't have any interest in burning down my house, and I have a certain fondness for my eyebrows. What I'm envisioning is

I'd like to create robots that are not necessarily RC, that are smaller than a breadbox (or at least not much bigger) and that don't stink of deisel after every use.

I'd like to explore the world of Rube Goldberg: simple mechanics and orchestrations that involve motors, not engines.

I think that the whole rusting metal, prehistoric, fresh from the junkyard look is inherent to SRL and works for them, but I'd like a little more beauty. I'd like shiny chrome and sparkly brass. When you don't set your stuff on fire, you can do that.

A simple narrative where the action flows from one place or thing to another - something that can be captured on film and shared, but can also be enjoyed in person.

I told alleahna about it and she's all over that action. We've already started accumulating components and are talking about what it is we want to do. The next step is getting out of denial and just setting up the work table in the living room.

It's inevitable.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
here are some huge quiet pretty robots.. more walking sculptures actually. but still cool. http://www.strandbeest.com/
Aug. 15th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
You were there too? We didn't see you -- but I guess it isn't surprising with the hundreds of other people who were also. I'm still overdue to finish my post about it. Tien has a few photos she took with her camera phone: http://www.travelingtiger.com/tiensblog/2006/08/survival-research-labs.html

Yeah, robots are great. I want to figure out a way to get enough free time in my life to do all the things I want to do.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )