Performing Robots


“All the world’s a stage”, Shakespeare famously claimed, “and all the men and women merely players”. Today, we witness new species of players entering the world-stage as social robots are becoming increasingly part of the performance of everyday life and work. Making robots better equipped to interact and collaborate with humans (who will generally not have special skills or training to operate them) requires cross-disciplinary approaches that combine technological expertise with insights from the social sciences, humanities, and the arts. In this context, a lot is to be gained from the expertise and knowledge from the theatre whereas, vice versa, current developments in robotics open new terrain for theatre-makers exploring the possibilities of these new technological performers and investigate the possibilities and implications of a future of living with them.

Performing Robots brings together experts from the theatre and robotics for joint research, expert meetings and other collaborations. See below for projects we initiated and participated in!

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ELRAT investigates how robots can be used in art and theatre, and what art and theatre can do for robotics. We bring together expertise from the arts and theatre, from robotics, and from academic research into both of them. We invest in creative explorations that provide the basis for artistic creations, practical applications and theoretical insights. Read More

Acting like a Robot demonstrates the value of expertise and knowledge from theatre for innovative approaches to the development of the behavior of robots and their interaction with humans (HRI),  putting into practice the potential of collaborations between theatre and robotics for the development of the interaction with, behavior of and reflection on social robots.

Within the framework of the project Acting like a Robot, Ulrike Quade Company investigates relationships between puppets and robots, as well as between puppeteers and roboticists, through a creative deconstruction of a NAO robot. This resulted in new possibilities for manipulating and animating this puppet-robot. See here for more on this project!

Ulrike Quade Company and Bram Ellens are constructing and programming a giant-sized puppet which is controlled by two Kuka robot arms. This project explores the intersections between puppetry and robotics. Read more about this project here.

In his exhibition Robots in Captivity (Buitenplaats Doornburgh July-December 2021) Bram Ellens explored human-technology relationships. Acting like a Robot collaborated with Bram Ellens in several workshops, meetings, brainstorming sessions and talks, by taking his works as a starting point for academic reflection and contributing to his creative process. See here for more!

This PhD project by Ruowen Xu looks at broken robots in the theatre and art performance, to question how technological vulnerability informs new approaches to human-robot interaction (HRI) and what is at stake in these modes of prototyping. Click here to read more about her project!

In 2019, Performing Robots organized a conference that takes stock of interactions between theatre and robotics so far and looks at possibilities for future collaboration. What do the performing arts have to offer as inspiration, model, and test-case for the development of robots and for human-robot interaction? How might collaboration between the performing arts and robotics contribute to further development of social robots, as well as to critical understanding of what it will mean to be living with them? See here for more on this conference.

We have been involved in many more projects that are not categorized in the sections above. Read more about some of them here!