About Work Futur

Image of the Future

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

And do you believe that you will have a large or small impact on that future?

Based on the theory of futurist Fred Polak, Image of the Future poses these two questions, asking people to consider the future while reflecting on their present. Taking inspiration from the past, a machine taught the art of paper marbling interprets people's thoughts to create unique artworks.

In order to democratize the art creating process and bridge the gap between the digital and physical world, Image of the Future starts with a website using an interactive visual interface built using p5.js. Once responses are received, the program sends the collected information to the machine through Arduino in order to perform two operations; firstly triangulating a starting position and secondly determining printing instructions.

Moving into position involves a system of gears, motors and string based on the Delta Printer Principle. This was honed to perfection by developing a simulator in Processing. Once in position the machine releases drops of paint from two tanks onto a specially prepared solution. Since the paint is less dense than the solution, it spreads in concentric circles, akin to the marbling process.

The brief for this project was to connect two distinct spaces using interactive technology. Through our p5.js interface anyone can connect to the image of the future website in order to respond to the two questions. These translate to coordinates to give information to the robot to start painting. Ultimately humans are required in the space inhabited by the robot in order to 'print' the artwork.

Through the asking of two questions garnering subjective measures, translating these responses to precise coordinates before relaying data through an unpredictable yet controllable method, Image of the Future reflects the very nature of the future itself. Though somewhat blurry and imprecise, the future is not something that simply occurs, it is something we all make happen.

The team started out by exploring the creation process and in particular the balance between creation and destruction and the resulting creations that arise out of this.

This involved exploring various techniques from creating a rudimentary plasma cutter to melting wax. We eventually stumbled across paper marbling and came quickly to the idea of automating the process in some way to enable a human in a remote location to create art via this technique.

With robot-maker extraordinaire, Bjørn Karmann on the team, the solution evolved into a fairly complex system based on the delta printer principle. Coding a simulator to test our ideas, we were able to validate how the final machine would work.

The team then split to focus on various components of the final system.

Everything from gears, to pumps and tanks had to be sourced, designed, crafted, programmed and fitted. Over the course of four days we worked tirelessly to put a large number of pieces together, testing along the way.

As paper marbling usually uses specific ingredients which were hard to source given the time constraints, we developed an alternative using maizena, diluted acrylic paints and combinations of hot and cold water, which after numerous tests achieved the desired effect.

Once all components were built, the movement of the 'UFO' paint-deploying machine had to be programmed which was a painstaking task since controlling three motors simultaneously is not simple.

Finally once the movement was perfected, we were able to add some final touches such as an algorithm to control the pumps to release paint for specific time periods based on the data provided by the human.