Nathaniel Mellor: Singing Android Heads

Many robots are made with the idea of further research, testing the limitations of technology or studying the potential of artificial intelligence, but some are designed simply to haunt your nightmares. It is hard to imagine what other purpose they might possibly have.

The video at the end displays three singing heads at the Art Basel Miami Beach 2009, a $75,000 art piece by Nathaniel Mellor. The wax faces are incredibly realistic, yet with their large, possessed eyes and electrical wiring sticking out the back of their heads, incredibly terrifying as well. The muscle sensors in their faces, controlled by a computer, provide exactly those unpredictable twitches and movements that make them so uncanny. The creepy aura is intensified by the ghost-like trembles that run through their exteriors from time to time.

As you can tell from the video at the end of this post, their appearance is not necessarily the most disturbing part. The disembodied heads randomly burst into a strange, moaning chorus, chanting “freedom” over and over again. Almost as if they want to grow their own bodies and walks out of the exhibit to explore the world, like perfectly horrifying monsters. The only thing that cheapens the spectacle a little bit are the large speakers behind the heads, which makes it obvious where the voices are actually coming from. This, however, is not a problem that can’t be easily corrected.

What is their potential use besides props for horror movies or Halloween parties? It is not exactly clear, but from an artistic point of view, this is a work of genius. It taps into some of people’s biggest fears, and is sure to give anyone seeing the display for the first time a bit of a fright.

Can robots get any creepier than this? Never say never, but one shudders to think what else they can come up with especially considering that it was just 3 years ago that android skin was perfected. (From Robotics Zeitgeist: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics blog: http://robotzeitgeist.com/tag/nathaniel-mellor)

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