Chico MacMurtrie / Amorphic Robot Works


Early inflatable Bird Mars Inside Mars
The Inflatable Bodies
Inner Space
Inflatable Architecture
Sixteen Birds
Totempole Forest
Inflatable Bodies: Narrative

In a step forward from my most advanced robots, Skeletal Reflections and Growing, Raining Tree, a new generation of robotic sculptures, The Inflatable Bodies, eliminates the structural metal and associated weight found in my earlier work. In my prior work, the sculptural forms and the joints that connected and allowed for the sculptures' movement were largely composed of metals. Although the designs allowed for significant strength and movement, the structures bore many constraints due to weight and rigidity. In this new generation of work, wood and metal are absent; forms instead arise from high-tensile, inflatable, fabric "skeletons" which are formless until inflated with air.

The innovative use of the same strong fabric for both the structural "bones" and the actuating "muscles" of the sculptures has many benefits. The sculptures are incredibly light: few if any machines have been built at this weight and strength before. The unusual ability to relax the bone to create movements that conventional robotics cannot, results in an unprecedented range of purposeful, flexible motion.

Since the structures more closely approximate the qualities of soft tissue, with the "muscles" so smoothly integrated into the sculptural form that the viewer cannot tell where the inertia and momentum originate, the machines that result are capable of an astonishing natural elegance. Further, in interaction, and with the provision of enough environmental and internal sensors, a sculpture can move and interact with its audience with a nearly proprioceptive awareness of itself—allowing the work an uncanny portrayal of some of the qualities of a living system.

En route to developing an elaborate inflatable in human form, ARW has already produced many examples of inflatables inspired by birds, totem poles, arteries, trees, and an eight-limbed closed-loop feedback-driven humanoid, Tree Walker, which can navigate through a space by itself. Currently, we are developing an interactive architectural work entitled, Inflatable Architectural Body.