Projects

Dokumat 500


2005

Dokumat 500 challenges the repercussion of private media production. Mass produced digital recording devices and PC based editing software make it affordable and convenient to create homebrewn filmed content. Sophisticated production tools reduce the amount of knowledge, a hobbyist has to gather in advance, before he can make an alright video.
   Dokumat 500 takes this development one step further. The device is an autonomous documentary robot which films home videos and edits them at the same time. The robot does not only absorb the technical side of film production, but also the whole creative process. That approach leads to a maximum of convenience for the user and often unexpected results for the viewer.

dokumat 500

Dokumat 500’s decisions are based on random, combined with a minimal knowledge about its surrounding space. The camera just serves as recording device and it is not connected to the hardware which controls the robot’s behaviour. An electronic evaluation of the camera picture does not take place. The robot is blind, indeed.

The following video is filmed at the Royrobotiks workshop. Planned as a test, it is the very first documentary the robot has filmed.



While there is no image recognition involved, the robot also does not recognize any coherence in the sequence it films. But the human viewer links, due to his conditioning, the individual takes in the finished film. A person who watches those videos will discover inspiring sequences and bizarre plots. Recurring motives run like a thread through the video documentary.
   By the robot’s random control, it produces unexpected sequences and also predictable ones. Occasionally, it composes its pictures in completely conventional ways, sometimes it deviates from our viewing habits. Often, things in the background seem to interest it much more, than the obvious.
   It directs the attention of the spectator on things, where humans usually don’t take the time to view it, or on situations, where we would not have the necessary boldness for an insistent observation.

The video below is filmed at a power boat race in Stralsund, Germany.



The robot has a basic artificial intelligence, which allows it to move independently in almost any environment. Infrared sensors avoid collisions and provide the robot with the required basic information about its surroundings. Pans and tilts of the camera depend on the movement of the machine in its particular environment, and not on what the camera sees. The movements are based on an algorithm, which lets the robot behave, as if it would have a personality.
   However, both, the design and the behavior of Dokumat 500 suggest a curiosity about the happening in front of its lens, to be inherent in it.
   Its presence and the attributes of an offensive observation are regarded first as being exciting, after a while they get annoying, obtrusive and disturbing. The flightcase of the robot accommodates not only the robot during transport, it also offers space for large archive of video cassettes, which is build up gradually.

The next video is filmed at the Art Forum Berlin, a rather serious art fair. It is interresting to compare the reaction of art fair visitors to those of power boat race lovers.

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