Artist rendering of a space elevator

The name make sense after looking at the tag line – “people doing strange things with electricity “. Dorks are usually perceived as strange, and bots, well they do things with electricity. Dorkbot is much like it sounds, a meeting of geeks, knob twiddles, NASA scientists, and artists talking about anything that’s even remotely related to electricity.

Dorkbot began in New York City in 2000 and has since spread to 65 cities around the globe. Once a month, 3-5 presenters share their work and engage in dialog. Dorkbot even has a theme song.

Jeremy Fitzhardinge

Up first was Jeremy Fitzhardinge with a project originally intended for robotic vision. While exploring “feature tracking” logic from the output of a video stream, he noticed the clusters of “feature points” looked like star constellations. He then decided to shift his focus from robots to stars and create an interactive star engine, complete with birthing stars, constellation groupings, and super novas. The star patterns are based on features the video "sees", so user relationship becomes quite interesting.

Shannon Wright

Next was Shannon Wright. Her work consists of bizarre Arthur Ganson-like machines and tools for augmenting mundane human functions. She was clearly aware of the lack of electricity in her work, but gave a convincing argument about the kinetic relationship between the machine and its operator.

Shannon Wright

The work speaks to the ridiculous nature of the machines’ promise to improve the human experience. In one animated concept, a horse slowly walks in circles, spinning gears which eventually drive a bucking bronco ride on the stage above. Another piece has the operator pulling levers to fell a tree into a deconstructing house. Upon release of the levers, the tree extracts itself from the house, which returns to its unaltered state.

LiftPort drawing of the space anchor (looking back at earth)

Last was a presentation by Michael Laine, founder of Liftport, a company attempting to build the first space elevator. While it’s clear an elevator to space has some major obstacles to overcome, Michaels optimism painted the picture of my retirement home in geosynchronous orbit.

The elevator concept involves shooting a very large spool of nanotube
ribbon into space and lowering the dangling end back down to earth.
Working back towards the top, robots scale the 60 mile high tower to
reinforce the line. The idea seems to contradict the very foundation
of my logical mindâ the idea that a 60 mile long ribbon would just
sit there, half way between earth and space is unbelievably strange.

Dorkbot San Francisco

Date: 14th June – 15th July, 2006
Place: Rx Gallery
Address: 132 Eddy Street @ Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Text and Photos: Ammon Haggerty from Qaswa

[Help wanted] Inviting volunteer staff / pro bono for contribution and translation. Please e-mail to us.