January 17, 2017
Innovation Visual arts

What might the first western explorer have thought upon encountering whales, flamingos and iguanas? What would have they thought of these strange near-fantastical creatures? What is it like for 21st-century people to encounter robots for the first time? Are they friend or foe? Where do they come from and what controls them? If we saw one for the first time tomorrow, what would we tell our friends? This is the thinking behind Robot Life Survey – an alternative history series from design company After the flood that visualises Boston Dynamic’s Big Dog, Prox Dynamics’ Black Hornet Nano, and Harvard University’s Kilobot Swarm as if witnessed by an early explorer. What is our relationship with these strange, futuristic creations?

“Of all the creatures I’d encountered on my voyages, this was the one that most disturbed me. It stepped silently through the trees, its queasily familiar legs quick-stepping through the snow, as it sought to self-correct its balance at each contact with the ground.”

The series features the world’s most advanced robots, but imagines an early explorer discovering them in the wild for the very first time. Each image features notes from a mystery explorer. The art itself is by Indonesia-based artist named Eunike Nugroho, who specialises in botanical and animal life illustrations and paintings. The writing has been contributed by Lloyd Shepherd, an author of historical fiction such as The English Monster, Savage Magic, and The Detective and the Devil.

“The noise made by one of these tiny machines must be almost inaudible, but the little swarm we encountered down in the valley made an angry sound in its buzzing aggregate. I had seen plans for machines such as these in Lovelace’s study, and had marvelled at how the elegant lines had been squeezed and folded into such tiny mechanisms.”

Robot Life Survey
Project: After the flood
Illustration: Eunike Nugroho
Lloyd Shepherd
Year: 2016