July theme: Animation and Robots

Curated by: Nea Ehrlich

NEW Deadline: July 12th 2018


Etymologically, the term ‘animation’ is derived from the Latin ‘animare’ and has two key meanings, one referring to movement and the other to the bestowing of life. The idea of motion is a defining element in animation theory, but the idea of bestowing life expands the term further and connects it to the field of robotics as the design of artificial life. Robots are machines that transcend their initial role as tools, inherently connected to the notion of autonomy and agency, and thus sparking both the miraculous and the uncanny. Animating physical or visual characters in meaningful ways links the two disciplines. With the growing use of animation in varied interfaces, it only makes sense that the application of animation in the physical world is the next step.

Robotic research and widespread cultural views of robots have been shaped by cinematic and animated representations of robots. Furthermore, animation is often used in robotic and AI research in order to design expressive characters through appearance, movement, gesture and varied forms of communication. In fact, animation has become central in the field of robotic design, simulation and experimentation but the convergence of the two fields remains relatively under-explored within animation circles. Thus this theme represents an opportunity to expand the discussion and examine the cross-pollination between the two subjects. By exploring the concepts, technology, history and philosophy of the intersection between robotics and animation studies we hope to forge new connections between these disciplines and industries.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Animated robots in popular culture – then and now;
  • Animated robots and robotics research – overlaps and inspirations;
  • Designing and animating life;
  • Animation and performance theory;
  • Animation as performance – blurring boundaries between the organic and inorganic, the physical and the screen-based;
  • Character and/or motion design in animation and robotics;
  • Digital bodies – anthropomorphism and/or non-humanoid characters;
  • The uncanny valley as a link between robotics and animation;
  • Designing for empathy;
  • Facial animation, gesture design and communication;
  • Puppets, masks and fantastical mechanical creatures;
  • AI and/or embodiment in relation to animation;
  • Theological issues of bestowing life, control and “playing God” in animation and robotics;
  • The use of animation techniques and simulations in robotics design and research;
  • Animation and machine vision;
  • Mimicry as a design tool;
  • Agency and embodiment in animation practice and theory.

Posts of between 600 and 900 words, which discuss any aspect of the above topic are welcome. Contributors are encouraged to include clips and at least one image to support their posts. Please also include a short bio and 3 keywords. All permissions are the responsibility of the contributor. Please contact the guest curator Nea Ehrlich (neamou@gmail.com) and the editors Nichola Dobson (nichola_dobson@yahoo.co.uk) and Cristina Formenti (cristina.formenti@unimi.it) with submissions or questions.