“Stretch your mind – it makes you future capable”

• 26.02.19 •

Annina Antinranta • Design Director

March the 1st is the national Futures Day inviting people to join the world’s largest discussion on futures. The future is not something that happens – it is co-created by all of us, every day – today. We are facing major changes in the upcoming years. When machines help automate processes, our brain power can be freed to perform more complex tasks. But how are our brains doing? How can we survive in a world dominated by digital disruption and unexpected phenomena? From where we can get new ideas to work with?

One of the core skills in navigating unknown futures, is to learn to stretch the mind. At Futures Day we will bend both our bodies and our mind. Human Robot. Moving Robot is a contemporary dance performance and associated workshop, designed and led by dance artist Iina Taijonlahti as well as Momo, an InMoov robot designed by Gaël Langevin and the Futurice Robotics crew.

Dancing with machines

The Human Robot. Moving Robot workshop is based on different practices of movement improvisation. The goal is to stretch our thinking and understand future technologies in the context of movement. According to dance artist Iina Taijonlahti – who thinks that artists should take an active role in creating social impact from within society – “The key question of the project is how the art of dance can help in developing social robots further. Can the co-operation of a dance artists and future technology developers create value for developing more humane social robots leading to better user experience for users?”

Technologies develop fast and we need to prepare ourselves for the disruption that might happen in any domain, resulting in changes in systems: how we behave and how our surroundings work in everyday situations. Taijonlahti explains that for her, stretching the mind means constantly “dislocating my mind, stepping into a gray area and tolerating uncertainty”.

Taijonlahti says “Dance offers countless possibilities for interaction and communication and serves as a tool for remembrance, emotional experience, and cognitive and sensorimotor tuning. Improvisation provides space for imagination. By dancing we can create images that are not physically present. For example, we can imagine what the future of the world is, how people will move in the future, what the dance of the future is. On the other hand, improvisation is strongly connected in the present and everything is happening now.” Taijonlahti feels that stretching the mind through improvisation is born precisely from the past, the present and the future being present all at the same time.

The movement – “whether conscious or unconscious”– is built into us. It is what makes us humans. Our bodies can identify with what others experience in their bodies. This phenomenon is called kinesthetic empathy. For example, the fear experienced by another individual can influence our bodies. According to Taijonlahti, we can develop these skills by becoming more aware of the connections between the mind and the body. She takes breathing as an example: it it becomes superficial and intermittent, our brain receives a message that things are not right and it can activate the fight-flight-freeze response. But by learning deep breathing, we can send a message to the brain that everything is fine.”

Conversations with robots

Futurice robotics designer Minja Axelsson explains that current research in social robotics is focused on how to make the communication between social robots and humans more intuitive. “A big part of human communication is body language, which could also be a future communication modality of robots. One research area of communication via movement is the exploration of robots’ capacity to learn from demonstration by a human teacher. Since a robot’s embodiment is fundamentally different from a human’s, imitation is challenging. In order to visually imitate a task performed by a human, the robot needs to figure out what action to perform to achieve the same physical effect. For example, a human can kick a ball, but if the robot has no legs, it needs to shove the ball. In the future, could we have robots that learn physical expressivity by imitating humans?”

“At Futurice, the robotics team is focused on rapidly prototyping social robots, and testing those robots in spaces designed for humans. This gives us feedback on the requirements for a robot operating in specific environments, such as a busy public library or an online gaming platform. Socially situated robots raise questions of how humans respond to robots: are they perceived as merely moving drones, or as social agents? How should these robots be designed to make the users’ experience as good as possible?” Axelsson continues.

"We all have the ability to dance and produce movement. It only requires courage. The splendor of dance is that there are no two similar movers in the world. We are not mechanical robots.” Taijonlahti concludes.

Human Robot. Moving Robot crew

Iina Taijonlahti - a dance artist and a coach, whose mission is to bring bodily awareness and creativity to different domains.

Momo - social robot (open source - Inmoov by Gaël Langevin)

Futurice Robotics: Niki Ulmanen & Teemu Turunen (programming)

Social robots specialist: Minja Axelsson

Executive producer: Annina Antinranta

Photography: Vesa-Pekka Grönfors

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Human robot. Moving robot workshop at Annantalo 1st of March, 9:00 - 10:15

Human robot. Moving robot workshop at Annantalo 1st of March, 11:00 - 12:15

Human robot. Moving robot workshop at Annantalo 1st of March 17:00 - 18:15 Open doors. The workshop can fit 20 people.

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