Light Painting With Miniature Robots

<p>It&#8217;s as if your Roomba and <span class="caps">SLR</span> got together to make beautiful, artistically-inclined baby bots.</p>

Julia Kaganskiy

If you thought your Roomba was cool, wait until you get a load of these adorable drawing robots called lumiBots, from designer Mey Lean Kronemann. Combining light painting, generative art, and an Arduino micro-controller, these autonomous little bots create wispy, luminous patterns by tracing their path with a UV LED on a glow-in-the-dark mat. The result is what you might expect to get if you mated your beloved Roomba with your SLR, or perhaps a lightning bug.

A mini swarm of bots is seen in the installation video above, performing a sort of strange, awkward dance and in the process creating a generative image. The bots leave glowing trails in their wake that fade over time and are programmed to react to light—preferring brighter (newer) and broader (more often used) trails. Physically exploring the idea of emergence, a popular concept that drives much generative art that explores the way complex systems and patterns can arise out of a series of relatively simple interactions. Since the behavior of the lumiBots is not pre-programmed and not predictable, it emerges from interactions between the robots, the simple rules they follow, and influences from their surroundings.

Kronemann explains:

The lumiBots can make emergent effects graspable, such as the so-called Ant Colony Optimization algorithms by visualizing the principle of pheromone trails (scent trails) with light trails. The swarm robots behave like ants that follow the scent trails of other colony members. The lines are medium and information in one: Since the trail itself already gives information about place and time, as well as direction and relevance by its concentration and width an elaborate (radio or wireless) network is redundant.

Now if they’d only vacuum your floors while doing all this, we’d certainly be investing in a fleet of lumiBots for the office.