International Conference on Social Robotics – Workshop on Robots and Art

Misbehaving Machines

27 October 2014, Sydney, Australia


All the invited talks are now available on YouTube. Click here for some photos from the workshop.

The workshop will host a performance by the celebrated performance artist Stelarc;


Using a Kinect sensor interface, the body’s arm gestures and postures actuate and animate the movements, expressions and spoken and sung sounds of the Prosthetic Head. Choreographing the motions of the Head simultaneously composes the sounds that it produces…

(The event will be held during the conference welcome reception at the Coles Theatre)


In everyday life, we constantly encounter situations in which machines do not fulfil their designated function or do not meet our expectations. It is foreseeable that with the rise of social robots, real or perceived misbehaviour will be common place until technology and algorithms mature sufficiently. In research, however, failures and malfunctions are not necessarily an unfortunate course of events, best to be completely avoided. Misbehaving robots, the hypothesis of the workshop, can sometimes teach us more about social interactions than their successful counterparts. After all we are still on the fringe of the development: we lack long-term, large-scale experience of social interactions between humans and robots and we are still on the search for a guiding model.

While science and engineering aim at minimising the occurrence of dysfunctional behaviour in machines, the arts embraced the concept of creative failure from the beginning of modernity. Errors were seen as an important source of new ideas and spawned novel and sometimes far reaching developments. Sometimes they were even a wilful part of the concept of the work of art from the start. Jean Tinguely’s self-destroying machines might be mentioned or—with typical user expectations in mind—Norman White’s ‘Helpless Robot’. Thus, in a manner of speaking, it suggested itself to bring robotic art (and art employing machines in general) in contact with the scientific and engineering side, promoting interaction and allowing confrontation. The workshop is directed towards people active in any of the aforementioned domains. Engineers and scientists are encouraged to report on robots that did not behave according to expectations in the interaction with humans and, if possible, how the resulting behaviour was perceived and judged by the users. For artists, we welcome any contribution where unexpected behaviour of a machine was or became an essential part of the work of art.

Recent Workshops:

ICRA 2013

ICRA 2012

ICRA 2011


Christian Kroos, Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art, Curtin University, Perth, AUS

Damith Herath, Robological, Sydney, AUS


Curtin University

Date and Venue

This is a full day workshop to be held on the 27 October 2014.

At the Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney

More information available on the ICSR2014 conference website

Invited Speakers



stelarcStelarc is an artist who performs with prosthetics and robotics. His projects include Third Hand (EMG actuated), Exoskeleton (6 legged locomotion), Extended Arm (11 degree of freedom manipulator), Prosthetic Head (embodied conversational agent) and Ear On Arm (surgically constructed and stem-cell grown that will be internet enabled). In 1996 he was Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh and in 2002 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Monash University, Melbourne. In 2010 he received a Special Projects grant, Australia Council and he was also awarded the prestigious Ars Electronica Hybrid Arts Prize. He is presently Distinguished Research Fellow and Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA), Curtin University, Perth. His artwork is represented by Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne.


Matthew Connell

matthewMatthew Connell is a Senior Curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. He has been Curator of computing and mathematics since 1991.  He has curated a number of  exhibitions many of which explore aspects of artificial intelligence and robotics.

TALK TITLE: Machines with attitude


Things shaped by the human mind and hand embody the values and beliefs of the culture that produce and use those things. Within the museum, objects and associated materials are presented for their capacity to help us reflect upon our ourselves, our values and beliefs.

MAAS has presented a number of objects and interactive devices that ask our audience to wonder at the nature of human intelligence. Some of the most engaging and captivating of them would appear to reflect badly on us.

Over 40 years the MAAS has presented a number of machines for which/whom interactions with audiences include cheating, lying and rudeness.


Mary-Anne Williams

mary_anneProfessor Mary-Anne Williams is a roboticist, knowledge engineer and listed on the Robohub’s top 25 women in robotics. She has a PhD in Computer Science and a Masters in Law. Mary-Anne is a leading authority on Knowledge Representation and Reasoning with transdisciplinary strengths in AI, Social Robotics, Cognitive Robotics, Machine Learning, IP and Privacy Law. She is Director of the Magic Lab at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS); a Fellow in the Stanford University Centre for Legal Informatics; Guest Professor at the University of Science and Technology China. Mary-Anne chaired the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia Committee that undertook a national evaluation of research in Mathematics, Information and Computing Sciences in 2012. She is Conference Chair of the International Conference on Social Robotics in 2014, Review Editor for the prestigious Artificial Intelligence Journal, serves on the Editorial Board for AAAI/MIT Press, Information Systems Journal and the ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics.

Mary-Anne has a passion for innovation, science, technology and engineering. She established and continues to lead the UTS Robot Soccer team and the UTS Social Robotics Project that aims to explore how Australia’s only PR2 robot, whose crowdsourced name is Gutsy, can develop social intelligence in its dealings with humans.  She works with her research team in the Magic Lab to bring science fiction to reality; the research goal is to design autonomous technologies that can learn, adapt, and that entertain and collaborate with people.

TALK TITLE: Social Robots: The Art of Apology

Mari Velonaki

mariVelonaki has worked as an artist and researcher in the field of interactive media art since 1997, driven by her fascination with the complex area of human-machine interaction. Her research begins from a series of interactive installations that engage the spectator/participant with digital and robotic characters in interplays stimulated by sensory-triggered interfaces. In 2003 Velonaki began to work with robotics, initiating and leading a major Australian Research Council Linkage art/science research project ‘Fish-Bird: Autonomous Interactions in a Contemporary Arts Setting’ (2004-2006) in collaboration with robotics scientists at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. Velonaki has actively advocated the need for a dedicated research space for Social Robotics in Australia. In 2006 she co-founded, with Associate Professor Rye, the Centre for Social Robotics; a centre dedicated to cross-disciplinary research into human-robot interaction in environments that incorporate the general public. In 2007 Mari was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship and in 2009 she was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant ‘Physicality, tactility, intimacy: interaction between humans and robots’ (2009-2013) and a QEII Fellowship. Her principal contribution to the field of HRI is the creation of experimental robots and the design of novel interfaces that allow for the development of haptic and immersive relationships between the participants and the robotic agents.

Mari is currently the director of the Creative Robotics Lab, at the National Institute of Experimental Arts, at the University of New South Wales Art & Design.

Her research has been published in journals including IEEE Transactions on Robotics, International Journal of Robotics Research, ACM Computers in Entertainment, Journal of Social Robotics; and has contributed chapters in books in the area of social HRI. Mari’s artworks have been exhibited worldwide, including:  National Art Museum Beijing; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Korea; ZENDAI Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; Aros Aarhus Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh; Millennium Museum – Beijing Biennale of Electronic Arts; Ars Electronica, Linz; Conde Duque Museum, Madrid; European Media Arts Festival, Osnabrück; Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand; Arco, Madrid; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery/GOMA; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Ton-Build-Spektakel, Zurich, Foundation for Art and Technology, Liverpool, UK.


TALK TITLE: How to fail gracefully: Understanding and using situational context in interactive systems.


In Social HRI the context of an interaction can have a significant influence on the interpretation of observations. This is particularly important for interaction that involves people and robots in social settings. Velonaki’s presentation will explore how the context of situations involving people, robots and specific environments can best be represented; how the context be inferred from measurements that can readily be made of the participants, the robots and their environment; and how information can best be communicated to the participants in ways that account for the participants’ intentions and the context of the interaction. She will argue that the more comprehensive our situational understanding becomes the more equipped will be to prevent or accommodate failure gracefully.

Louis-Phillipe Demers

louis_philippeLouis-Philippe Demers makes large-scale installations and performances. His projects can be found in theatre, opera, subway stations, art museums, science museums, music events and trade shows. Over the past two decades, he participated in more than seventy artistic and stage productions and has built more than 325 machines. Demers’ works have been featured at major venues such as Theatre de la Ville, Lille 2004, Expo 1992 and 2000, Sonambiente, ISEA, Siggraph and Sonar. He received five mentions and one distinction at Ars Electronica, the first prize of Vida 2.0, mentions at Vida 12.0 and 15.0, a recommendation at the Japan Media Arts Festival, the Interactive prize for Lightforms 98 and six prizes for Devolution including two Helpmann Awards. Demers was Professor of Digital Media and Exhibit Design/Scenography at the Hochschule fuer Gestaltung Karlsruhe, affiliated to the world renowned Zentrum fuer Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM, Germany). Since he joined the Interaction and Entertainment Research Centre and the newly founded School of Art, Design and Media at the Nanyang Technological University.

TALK TITLE: Unconventional Computing,  Robots and Art


The perceived behaviours of the machines are, as when Jessica Riskin describes Vaucanson’s defecating duck,  part fraudulent and part genuine, part transparent and part ingeniously opaque.

In this talk, I will look into computational models – and the absence of –  found at the boundaries of the natural and the artificial, the mechanical and the organic. The long list of liminal divides found in robots is the essence of the tension between simulation, models and representations. Unconventional computing leaves the symbols and models of a cybernetic world for a more “performative” and “embodied” view of the world. I will then investigate (mis)behaving robots by linking unconventional computing with performance theory to analyse audience perception.

Ken Rinaldo

Trans-species symbiogenisis (pre-recorded)

ken The junctures where machine, animal, plant, bacteria and humans meet are where our future exists. Three decades of creating robotic art has taught me that living systems provide the ultimate models of what technology can become. Communication is at heart of my work with a desire to break down and reveal behavior, processes and patterns inherent in natural and semi-living species. My work exposes the underlying beauty inherent in the intercommunication of all species (organic and machinic) at all scales. As anaerobic bacteria have receded to our stomachs, symbiotically intertwined with our survival, so we are receding to a comfortable embryonic sac enveloped in technology as a new species. Neitherhuman nor machine is ascendant; we are becoming symbiont.

In this talk internationally recognized new media artist Ken Rinaldo will discuss work such as Fusiform Polyphony six robotic sculptures that track human body heat in order to make music with their facial structure, Augmented Fish Realty the first fish driven robots on the planet, Autopoiesis and Autotelematic Spider Bots, artificial life semi living series of robots and the Enteric Consciousness a work that allows living bacteria to control a giant robotic tongue designed to given humans a deluxe massage as well as the Paparazzi Bots robots designed to follow you and manipulate you to smile in order to elevate all to robotic selfie  fame.

Guy Ben-Ary

guyGuy Ben-Ary is an artist at SymbioticA, the Centre of Excellence for Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia (UWA), and has been a core researcher there since 2001. The biological laboratory is his studio where the creative process takes place, and tissue culture, tissue engineering, electrophysiology, microscopy and other biological techniques are his artistic mediums. His research is inter-disciplinary and the production of the artwork involves a collaborative effort of artists, scientists and engineers.

Ben-Ary’s research explores the fundamental themes that underpin the intersection between art and science; namely life and death, cybernetics, and artificial life. It investigates processes of transformation of bodies or living biological material from artistic, philosophical and ethical perspectives.  This exploration makes use of new scientific and cybernetic technologies and processes to re-evaluate our understanding of life and the human body.

TALK TITLE: Bio-Engineered Brains and Robotic Bodies, From Embodiment to Self-Portraiture


In his talk Guy presents some of the methodologies and theories that underpin his artistic practice by using as examples, four of his major projects completed over the last decade, MEART, Silent Barrage, In-Potentia, and cellF, with some preliminary discussion of terminology, ethics and robotic embodiment as an artistic strategy and his artistic attempt to match bio-engineered neural networks to artistic, robotic bodies.

Elizabeth Ann Jochum

elizabeth_jElizabeth Jochum (BA Wellesley College; MA, PhD University of Colorado) is an Assistant Professor of Art and Technology at Aalborg University (Denmark) and the co-founder of Robot Culture and Aesthetics (ROCA) research group at the University of Copenhagen.  Her research focuses on the intersection of art, robotics and performance.

TITLE: Rehearsal for the (Robot) Revolution 


This paper considers the use of tele-operated and autonomous robots in live performance. Theatre is a conducive to studying what makes robots compelling and engaging.  Because theatre is a narrowly defined domain in which robots can excel, it is a useful test bed for exploring issues that are central to social robotics. However automated performances that merely substitute robotic actors for human ones do not always capture our imagination or prove entertaining.  While some plays explore ambivalence to robots or “misbehaving machines” thematically (such as R.U.R.), the exigencies of live theatre do not allow for editing or special effects.  Unlike film, robots onstage must be highly calibrated and run the risk of appearing like over-rehearsed actors.  How do artists create engaging performances while ensuring reliable and robust performances? What can robot designers and researchers learn from robot peformances? This paper considers the design and staging of robots in live theatre. Citing examples of machinic performances absent of human actors, interactive robotic art works, human-robot opera, puppetry and traditional spoken-word plays, we demonstrate how creative approaches to robot dramaturgy and puppetry-inspired control techniques create compelling and interactive performances. Theatre performances function as authentic sites of human-robot interaction staged in fictional landscapes that both exaggerate and occlude the capabilities of robots.


Eleanor Sandry

eleanorDr Eleanor Sandry is a Lecturer in the Department of Internet Studies at Curtin University. Her research is focused on developing an ethical and pragmatic recognition of, and respect for, otherness and difference in communication. Much of her work explores communication theory and practice by analysing human-robot interactions in science fact, science fiction and creative art. Her book, Robots and Communication, will be published in 2015.

TITLE: Communication and Otherness in Robotic Art


The artistic practice approach to designing robots is not generally focused on creating machines that are completely predictable and reliable. From some perspectives, in particular those that assume familiarity is key in supporting communication success, it might therefore be deemed as unlikely to result in the development of robots that support rich social interactions. This presentation breaks down this assumption to argue that robotic art installations, where interactions between humans and robots occur even when the robot is overtly strange and other-than-human, provide excellent illustrations of communicative encounters, which may develop into longer interactions. In particular, this presentation highlights the importance of considering nonverbal communication, the dynamics of communication systems and the importance of interruptions, in recognising the communicative potential of non-humanoid robots. Rather than attending only to what is easily understood, precisely presented and flowing, the importance of misunderstanding, ambiguity and disruption is emphasised. An analysis of encounters between visitors and robots created by artists therefore supports a reconsideration of the position of otherness in communication to invoke new understandings of what it might mean to be social even outside installation spaces.




Download the programme as a pdf


Registration Opens
09:00 Welcome
09:10 Video: Drum Circle – Scott Barton and Steven Kemper
09:20 Video: Rehearsal for the (Robot) Revolution – Elizabeth Ann Jochum(1) and Ken Goldberg(2), (1)Aalborg University, Denmark (2)University of California, Berkeley
09:30 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Error, Function & Behaviour – Stelarc, Alternate Anatomies Lab, Curtin University
10:00 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Machines with attitude – Matthew Connell, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney


Morning Tea
11:00 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Rehearsal for the (Robot) Revolution – Elizabeth Ann Jochum, Aalborg University, Denmark
11:30 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: How to fail gracefully: Understanding and using situational context in interactive systems – Mari Velonaki, Creative Robotics Lab, National Institute of Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales
12:00Noon YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Social Robots: The Art of Apology – Mary-Anne Williams, Magic Lab, University of Technology, Sydney


01:30 YouTube-icon-full_colorPerformance & Talk: Gen-Ottonix v1 – Nathan Thompson, Artist
02:00 Video: AURAL: Robots, Evolution and Algorithmic Composition – Artemis Moroni(1), Jônatas Manzolli(2), Mariana Shellard(2), (1) CTI Renato Archer, Robotics and Computer Vision Division, Brazil (2)Unicamp, Interdisciplinary Nucleus of Sound Studies, Brazil
02:10 Video: AURAL2: Robots and a Generative System in an Algorithmic Composition Process – Artemis Moroni(1),Jônatas Manzolli(2), Mariana Shellard(2),  (1) CTI Renato Archer, Robotics and Computer Vision Division, Brazil (2)Unicamp, Interdisciplinary Nucleus of Sound Studies, Brazil
02:20 Video: COLUMN: Core Less Unformed Machine – Yasutaka Takeda, Kohei Yoshida, Shotaro Baba, P. Ravindra S De Silva and Michio Okada, Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan
02:30 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Communication and Otherness in Robotic Art – Eleanor Sandry, Curtin University


Afternoon Tea
03:30 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk (pre-recorded): Trans-species symbiogenisis – Ken Rinaldo, Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio
04:00 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Bio-Engineered Brains and Robotic Bodies, From Embodiment to Self-Portraiture – Guy Ben-Ary, SymbioticA, the Centre of Excellence for Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia
04:30 YouTube-icon-full_colorInvited Talk: Unconventional Computing, Robots and Art – Louis-Phillippe Demers, Interaction and Entertainment Research Centre, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University
05:00 Video: Eugene in Aotearoa – Eduardo B. Sandoval and Mitchell Adair
05:10 Video: Swarming Emotional Pianos – Erin Gee
05:15 Video: 6 robots named Paul – Patrick Tresset


Welcome Reception – Hosted by ICSR2014
06:00 Performance: Spinning/Screaming: Event for Amplified Head – Stelarc, in collaboration with Robological. Additional support by the Powerhouse Museum.

Call for Videos


Important Dates

12. September 2014: Video submissions due

22. September 2014: Notification of acceptance (updated)

17. October 2014: Final version ready

27. October 2014: Full-day workshop



Engineers and scientists areencouraged to report on robots that did not behave according to expectations in the interaction with humans and, if possible, how the resulting behaviour was perceived and judged by the users.

For artists, we welcome any contribution where unexpected behaviour of a machine was or became an essential part of the work of art.

We invite video submissions only. Videos should not exceed six minutes including titles and credits. The video must be accompanied by an abstract. All submitted material will undergo peer review by the program committee and external experts as appropriate. The author(s) of an accepted video will be given the opportunity to introduce the video with a five minutes presentation at the workshop; the content of the video, however, should be self-contained and self-explanatory.


To submit your video, please upload it to either YouTube or Vimeo and send the link (private or password protected if appropriate) along with the abstract to [email protected]


Walking Head – Stelarc