Dave Murray-Rust and Rocio von Jungenfeld
University of Edinburgh Development Trust (Innovation Initiative Fund), New Media Scotland (Alt-w), Design-Informatics (University of Edinburgh), School of Engineering and Digital Arts (University of Kent), and SOCIAM (EPSRC)
Lichtsuchende is an interactive installation, built using a society of biologically inspired, robotic creatures who exchange light as a source of energy and as a means of communication. The robotic creatures are reminiscent of sunflowers, turning their heads to face the sun in order to absorb its light. However, at the same time they also generate light in order to engage with others. Each creature is relatively small, but when a group of Lichtsuchende are brought together in an installation they form an expanding photo-kinetic social environment in which visitors can become immersed. Based on simple cybernetics combined with human and animal psychology (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), the Lichtsuchende sleep, dance with each other and with visitors while constantly seeking light sources to play and communicate with. They are curious and, when awake, they are keen to interact with any source of light and to exchange photonic information. Visitors are invited to engage with the installation by using high power torches. With these torches they can explore the environment of the cybernetic light seeking creatures, influencing their movements and provoking reactions. The embodied algorithms give rise to emergent behaviours which have communicative and emotional resonance, allowing a duet between the humans and the cybernetic beings.