The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a branch of the military responsible for technologies used today such as the internet, speech recognition software, the stealth fighter and even automatic parallel parking. Funded by DARPA in 2007, the autonomous pack animal "BigDog" demonstrated that robots could make decisions, but presented many situations where materials and mechanical parts limited robot mobility, functionality and cost. In 2008, living beetles first flapped their wings in response to applied wireless digital stimuli via remote control.
A 2009 project by DARPA conducted an experiment where a microelectrode implant was inserted into the living pupa of a manduca moth. Upon hatching, the flying adult moth could easily be steered by wireless control. This hybrid biological/biomimetic robotic project presents possibilities for entire swarms of expendable units that could be created and employed for surveillance and other covert operations.
"DARPAtech : Pupating" is an installation addressing the convergence of biological swarms and robotic technology mimicking its birthing stages here in the 21st century. Today we see small batches of living creatures metamorphose into robots for our military; what swarms emerge from tomorrow’s chrysalis?
The installation consists of about 200 pupae left to gestate on a floor grid. The larger-than life pupae or cocoon units gently blink to hint at a biomimetic world of tomorrow. Backlit posters with scientific jargon and robotic diagrams align living beings with military weaponry. This piece is meant to expose the emerging technologies normally absent from public view as mainstream proliferation gradually generates public acceptance. My work examines the trajectory of robotics technologies as daily life finds automata more ubiquitous. I focus specifically on biomimetics: on how animals are being 'copied' and their biological functionality replicated. Although robots continue to be seamlessly integrated with society, the trajectory of the blurred line between nature and machine presents a realm of unsettling unknowns and unrealized consequences.
This website last updated: July, 2013.