milan 2019: sony’s affinity in autonomy

Sony presented a beautiful installation called “Affinity in Autonomy” that explored future relationships with robotics of various sorts.

The installation was beautifully conceived, using both darkness and luminous splashes of vivid blended-pastel colors to create a wonderful experiential sequence.

But to describe the actual robotics…is a bit tricky. It was one of those things that to understand the poetics, you just had to be there: There was an interactive tracking video wall with exquisite motion graphic effects; a robotic installation with two slender robotic arms in large “birdcages” that gracefully sought and focused on people’s faces; a robotic installation of small and large white autonomous rolling spheres that would cluster around people sitting on the floor, like some sort of animal flock; and the next-gen Sony AIBO dogs, but with a projection mapping overlay to show what they are “thinking.”

Despite its beautiful experience, the installation was hard to photograph (it was about as anti-Instagram as possible), so check out the video below for a taste:

There was one piece I especially want to highlight: In the last room, hiding in a corner, was a monitor showing a very unique view of the interactive functionality of the various rooms, overlaid onto a traditional 2D architectural floorplan. Sorry for the “shakycam” video, but I find this fusion of the most state-of-the-art robotics and AI systems onto an old-school floorplan a fascinating juxtaposition:

If it is hard to see, this is showing every person being tracked, the associated data they are producing, and the interactions with the robotics. This really shows the future of architectural design, how architects must conceive of their spaces gaining intelligence and responsiveness in wholly new ways. Here is a still picture of the video:

Sony’s description of the show:

In a rapidly transforming technological landscape, we are developing a vision for robotics that will enrich people’s lives and society.
When robots have evolved so far that we feel like they’re alive, then humans will begin to feel an affinity toward them.
Affinity in Autonomy: Envisioning the relationship between humans and robotics.

Sony Design