Pictures are from Jules Delorge.
SERVO is a prototype of an interactive installation developed by the art collective PRISME. It questions the notions of machine thinking, sentience and consciousness, as machines are not only perceived as tools or devices anymore. We may talk about cybernetic entities.
SERVO immerses the spectator in a dark room, where only two imposing monolith-like structures stand, practically facing each other. This installation solicits a walking exploration around and within the structures, where the observer – the interactor – is also observed.
Each of the monolith represents a machine of its own, capable of watching the room and analysing the data it gathers concerning the interactor’s behavior. This monitoring is possible thanks to multiple Kinects placed on top of the structures, linked to a software called PB*.
These two entities are communicating together through a textual interface projected on the inner surfaces of the monoliths. The interactor can then be the witness of a curious dialogue and inevitably becomes more aware of his own behaviour as the two machines debate about it. Now and then, they argue on their respective datas and how they should interpret them, while sometimes they simply ask themselves questions about the people in the room, without ever truly finding an answer.
On the outer surface of the structures, the interactor finds himself in front of an abstract visual, a slow moving fluid that changes with time. Representative of the action of processing done by the two machines, the visual is intended to be seen as their stream of machinic consciousness, but is it also meant to be left open to interpretation. With time, the interactor slowly realises that its own movements have an impact on the projections, altering the colors and the speed of the fluid, but also the global aesthetic of the image.
The way people act in the room truly influences the machines and the direction their conversation takes. As two people get closer, the two computers get suddenly interested in that convergence. Was it to talk about them ? Did they accidentally bump into each other or was it simply two strangers passing by each other ? As the said interactors witness these attempts to understand, they become aware that they are not only observing machines who are observing them, but they’re observing themselves through the machines which evidently become reflexive mirrors of their actions.
*PB is a home-made software which allows us to collect the position of major points which define the human skeleton. PB is able to work with any number of motion sensing device – Kinects, RealSense, etc –, and to deal with any other software to make use of the data.