Actors like no other

Cubic flying robots share the stage with human actors.

Entitled The Tryphons' Eye, this theater performance is the creation of Nicolas Reeves, research professor at the School of Design of Université du Québec à Montréal, and David St-Onge, his collaborator at NXI Gestatio Design Lab.

The team designed flying robots with six degrees of freedom.

The play is even more impressive when you consider that the robots in question are not pre-programmed: they react in real-time to the gestures, corporal movements and voices of the actors, and to light. The production of this play required great technical ingenuity in order to make advanced interactions possible between the human actors and the robots. Human voice recognition and analysis techniques based on tone intervals rather than notes had to be developed.

The team designed flying robots with six degrees of freedom, meaning that they are able to move freely using movements that can be decomposed into six independent geometric transformations about fixed axes (for example, sliding forwards and backwards or rotations). 

In a purely artistic level, scenes had to be written involving interaction between the autonomous flying robots and the performers. This required, among other things, the development of elements that would enable the robots to express emotions, in such a way as to evoke empathy in the audience.

The results have been presented at the 34th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference (Montréal), the International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (Osaka) and the International Conference on Advanced Robotics (Talin, Arménie). They have also been the subject of articles published in INTER, Robotics and Automation Magazine and the Journal of Literature and Art Studies.

This work could also have an impact in applied psychology, through the development of therapeutic tools based on human-robot relations, and in museology, with the creation of automated guides for exhibition halls.