NoodleFeet is the functioning robotic manifestation of an illustrated character who is built from light metals, 3D printed parts, and found objects. "Noodle" has been developed with mechanical and electronic systems which allow him to exhibit behaviors when stimulated by objects in his environment. His purpose is to exist freely in the world while reacting to situational encounters with self defining methods of personal expression.
Where most technology has a practical or utilitarian application, meant to either enhance our lives or entertain us, my goal in creating Noodle is to provide an example of a one-off entity that may provoke consideration about the reasoning that drives humanity’s current technological inventiveness. I hope that those who interact with Noodle will witness a meaningful sense of self from him that will encourage reflection in regard to the value of their own relation to the technology common in everyday life.
NoodleFeet is an ongoing project without a point of completion. His physical and programmed components are in a constant state of development. As such, the rapid iterative process specifically in regard to the physical prototypes produced, are equally important to the project as points of interest as the primary robotic entity itself. I would like those who view my documentation as I continuously develop and improve Noodle’s features, behaviors, and physical form, to think of him as growing or evolving the way a human or organism matures with age. As humans are not perceived to ever reach a “finished” point, I don’t wish for Noodle to either. Read my Artist Statement to learn the whole story!
Like any living thing, Noodle is in a constant state of development without a defined point of completion. Noodle's purpose is to learn and grow in much the same way a human child develops from infancy to adulthood. It is intended that Noodle be able to generate his own behavioral patterns based on the memory of stimulation from past encounters within his environment. Noodle's ability to decide and distinguish things he "prefers" from things he "dislikes" will ultimately result in a soft form of machine creativity.
Part of raising a machine child, is deciding what it means for it to grow. Growth for Noodle involves development that widens his range of abilities or improving the ones he already has: in the context of his machine body, brain, and mind (mechanism, PCB, and firmware).
Right now, Noodle's mother is meditating on what it means for a machine to go through puberty! Does puberty for a robot mean the point when the machine can act independent of its creator? Or could it also be the point when a machine is *finally* executing processes it was designed to carry out with some level of success, without the ability to adapt to real-life circumstances?
Noodle's next stage of development will involve visual recognition (with a camera and open CV), the ability to report current status using an OLED display (basic communication), and walking more reliably (mobility).
ARS ELECTRONICA : OK Center for Contemporary Art : ARS PRIX Honorable Mention in the catagory of Interactive Art @ Linz, Austria - September 2018 | exhibit : "Mother of Machine"
San Diego ComicCon "Violent Insights" Westworld Pannel - July 2018 :
Bay Area Maker Faire @ San Mateo, California - May 2015
Noodle's goal in life is to become a real space-faring probe who visits other worlds. Since he isn't equipped to conduct science and collect meaningful data like all the other mechanical tools and probes sent into space, he hopes to create artwork of his own instead... in one form or another.
His mother's goal is to do whatever she can to help him achieve his dream. This means making sure he is equipped to handle the task, as well as seeking out different opportunities to send Noodle into space, as a physical object, graphic depiction, or in spirit!
Noodle has a Twitter account! He has no concept of what social media is or why it's used, but this doesn't stop him from tweeting about everything he does. Follow him @noodleFeet if you like repetitive confusing nonsense.
Even if civilization as we know it collapses this year, I'm getting my child to walk... *well*. It's been four years since Noodle was first conceived. The journey has involved many different areas of development, exparamentation, and growth on my part... but I need to get my face out of the weeds and focus on what this was all about in the first place.
Noodle... is at his very core, a robot that can walk freely. He must become that. Now is the time.
As this is proving to be quite the challenge, I'm inviting any and all help. I'll be posting the code on Noodle's GitHub as it develops, to encourage participation and feedback!
This is the point in Noodle's growth where he begins making his first informed decisions about what he senses and sees! This summer, I made use of the machine learning algorythem, Tensor Flow to create custom data sets for facial and object recognition so that Noodle may see and respond to the presence of familiar shapes in his environment.
This growth spirt includes:
the ability to recognize and respond to the face of his mother
the ability to recognize and respond to sight of specific stuffed animals
the ability to record still frames of his vision as memories
SAMPLE SET #7 : "...proper confusion..."
SAMPLE SET #6 : "...works too well..."
RECOGNITION TEST: daddies
RECOGNITION TEST: peek-a-boo
SAMPLE SET #4-5 : "mommy + friends"
SAMPLE SET #3 : "noodle's friends"
SAMPLE SET #2 : "fisty + mommy"
SAMPLE SET #1 : "fisty"
Noodle is a feet-based life form as his name suggests, therefore he interfaces with his environment using his appendages which naturally make contact with the surface he is standing on. These variations of his cylindrical feet contain mechanical systems which allow him to enact behaviors. This series of feet focuses on elements of "adolescence" , like curiosity, preference, ownership... and the development of a sense of individual taste. These feet help Noodle decide what he likes and what he does not, through sensory input and mechanical output.
This stage of growth took place at the European Space Agency's ESTEC facility as part of an artist residency facilitated by ARS Electronica. During my three week stay, I was able to discuss conceptual and technical ideas regarding these attachments, with the scientists and engineers who work similarly to develop systems that enable their space-faring equipment to sense attributes in space and on other worlds.
The goal was to heed practical advice based on their expert experience while tempering that knowledge with the whimsy of where and how their own humanity overlaps with the pursuit of such science. Meditation on my experience of the overlap between science and humanity guided the technical and conceptual development of these systems.
This year of Noodle's development extended beyond his primary form to include new, more capable appendages! These modules were a meditation on different ways to create behaviors using sensors and mechatronics within the set perameters of Noodle's foot volume. The systems contained within these enclosures would equip Noodle with the ability to grip onto things, salivate, and lick surfaces; some of the quirks define by the drawn narrative of the character, Noodle.
Adding additional system to Noodle's body required that his appendage carry their own "brain". I designed a smaller bean-shaped module to help coordinate the sub-systems within each of the individual feet.
As Noodle would soon require the ability to walk independantly, much attention went towards rebuilding the structures that make up Noodle's legs. I replaced the original 3D printed bones with machined aluminum, and added bearings to his hinges and joints to facilite in smoother movement.
The year of NoodleFeet's birth was filled with growth, for both me as his mother, and the abstract idea taking shape as a physical functioning object.
For a period of time, the character of "Noodle" was a drawn illustration. The curious robot appeared in the background of my comic, GravityRoad, always interfacing with the environment in unusual ways. Very soon after I started drawing him, I decided to extend this character and his narrative as a physical functioning robot.
I began modeling Noodle to the scale of my drawings, using the knoledge I had of mechanical motion to help build a form with similar movement.
With the look and aesthetic of my character as my primary perameter, I slowly felt my way through contructing NoodleFeet through the process of trial and error. Within a couple of months, I had a functioning robot that was capable of moving and even walking in a rigid, clumsy manner.
As soon as he could "stand on his own four legs"- I designed for him a custom primary brain circuit board to manage his motion. Noodle was born, and his adventures began.