PATHOS is a collaboration between Indo-Danish art duo Aparna Rao and Søren Pors (Pors & Rao) and Wyss Zurich that began in 2017. It was launched by the artists two years earlier at OST Buchs, two years earlier by the artists, before migrating to Wyss Zurich as an artist residency. In 2020, the project also evolved into the Robotics Aesthetics & Usability Center (RAUC) at ETH, which is managed by the artist duo.
The project builds on the artists’ two-decade-long effort to create life-like “beings” animated with sentient behavior patterns, and takes into account the technical difficulties encountered in crafting robotics into a language of affective motion and response. The aim is to open up these highly complex technologies to artistic expression and the field of visual aesthetics. By developing friendly interfaces that allow non-engineers to intuitively define and control robotic animation, PATHOS facilitates conditions for using robotics as a viable personal medium.
At Wyss Zurich, innovative pilot projects are being developed in collaboration with a curated group of visual arts practitioners as a way to test and demonstrate the potential of PATHOS to: (a) facilitate visual innovation in which technology can serve inconspicuously as a new embodiment of the language of each artist or designer; (b) make it possible to tap into the notion of a perceived living presence, where complex inner states can be revealed through the nuances of physical behavior; (c) democratize access to industrial hardware and complex, expensive engineering software through user-friendly, browser-based control of modular devices; and (d) enhance robustness and address vulnerabilities encountered in public exhibition spaces, which can be challenging environments for fragile, unsupervised moving technologies.
The open-source software platform of the project is called BEING, and the robotics modules are BEING KITS. The idea is for each new project to use modules from the platform, instead of building from scratch, and to add new functions to the library so that the platform can grow and adapt over time and with changing technologies.