The “BioComputation Robots” (2019) explore new medical research into the way blue light can be used to control epileptic absence seizures by resetting genetically modified photosensitive brain cells. Computational neuroscientists study the data about how neurones in the brain fire in order to calculate the optimum moment to apply light and reset the cells.
In Anna Dumitriu and Alex May’s mouse-like robots it’s a manual activity: exhibition visitors have to take care of the robots and watch for signs of an absence ‘seizure’ then shine a blue torch on the robot’s ‘brains’ as soon as the robots collapse, in order to keep them moving.
The aim is to engage in a playful activity in order to learn about the science. The artwork is made in collaboration with Professor Volker Steuber, Head of the Biocomputation Research Group in the Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research, and Professor Freek Hoebeek at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht. The aim their research is to provide future healthcare treatments for patients with absence seizures and significantly reduce any risk of brain damage.
This robot has a sense of smell, something we usually think of as uniquely human. It can track smells it likes and follow them. Perhaps in the future when the boundaries between robots and humans are much less clear we might select perfumes that will appeal to robots rather than humans. When it sniffs the scent from the bottle of specially made ‘robot perfume’ it is attracted to it.
The project is inspired by research at the University of Hertfordshire by Dr Michael Schmuker on the use of artificial intelligence and hardware applications to create artificial robot noses being developed with the EU FET Flagship Human Brain Project. The Olfactory Robot was made in collaboration with Professor Volker Steuber.