Simple Machines // Intelligent Machines Pt. 2


It’s no secret that technology is dramatically transforming the ways in which machines operate. We’re witnessing a new revolution, led by a dynamic set of trends and pushed forward by digital disruptors. The ground is shifting beneath humans – mechanical apparatuses. 

The Internet of things had initially been projected as the “Internet of Computers”, a global network enabling services that now include the World Wide Web (WWW), File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and others allowing computers and hence users to communicate with each other and exchange information. Mediums are becoming mobile, pervasive and wearable through the progression of time and technology; to which the device processing power and storage capacity are increasing. Furthermore due to this rapid evolution within the industry, networking technologies and electronic communicative infrastructures are becoming more inexpensive and convenient. These devices can now compute, sense, behave and ultimately become elements of the now developed concept ‘Internet of Things’.

The features of a device that can act as a member of an IoT network can be summarised into the following: (Doukas, 2012)

  • Collect and Transmit Data: The environment can sense the environment (eg., your home or your body) and collect information related to it (temperature, lighting conditions, etc)and transmit it to a different device (physical machines such as motors or digital smart devices).
  • Actuate devices based on triggers: It can be programmed to actuate other devices (turn off lights, activate specific tasks) based on specific conditions.
  • Receive information from the network they belong to (i.e. other devices) or through the internet.
  • Communication assistance: IoT devices that are members of a device network can also assist in communication (data forwarding) between other nodes of the same network. Working as a messenger cycle transferring direct information constantly.

IoT will produce a treasure trove of big data – data that can help cities predict accidents and crimes, give doctors real-time insight into information from pacemakers or biochips, enable optimized productivity across industries through predictive maintenance on equipment and machinery, create truly smart homes with connected appliances and provide critical communication between self-driving cars.


Automation & Artificial Intelligence:

The definition of AI is not stagnant and many factors come into play when describing its status.  “An intelligent agent (IA) is an autonomous entity which observes through sensors and acts upon an environment using actuators (i.e. it is an agent) and directs its activity towards achieving goals (i.e. it is rational).” – (REVOLVY).

Automation essentially is a term used to describe a process or a set of processes that are executed without human intervention.  It is a set of guidelines that machines follow to execute and deliver the output. It is equivalent to giving a person a recipe and asking that person to cook by following instructions to the dot. AI, though similar, is an extension of this. AI is something that comes up with the recipe, not merely following given instructions. Artificial intelligence is something that reciprocates (by definition, or at least tries to) the intelligence of living organism

The relationship lies with when Artificial Intelligence is once sufficiently developed, can be used to create the instructions or “recipes” and initiate the process sequence that will result in automation. These are the links which I aim to focus on, not necessarily creating an AI projection but one that emphasises some of the vectors that AI deals with (bumping up a machines conventional use and highlighting intelligent facets of said machines)

The parallels between automation and artificial intelligence for me, arouses a ‘Posthuman’ world. Signalling a redefinition of humanity’s place and a breakdown between what we think of as natural and artificial. Works and creations from this facet reflect on bioethics, trans-species hybridisation, social networks and alternative futures between man and machine. Wonbin Yang’s Species, 2012, is a series of insect-like robots made from urban waste and small mechanical parts that reacted with their environment. Conveying the behaviours of artificial beings in the city scape; ‘utilising urban facilities and systems, building relationships with other beings, and developing strategies to survive in their man-made surroundings’.

As mentioned in my previous post the Arduino “is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” (Bruce, 2011). Their application towards the automation and utility shift towards drones, the home, robots, wearables and health have already flourished. The automation of these Swarmanoid robots (programmed with Arduino) which work hand in hand to achieve a task coincide with my vision for the Rube Goldberg Machine. The main scientific objective of Swarmanoid is the design, implementation and control of a novel distributed robotic system. The system will be made up of heterogeneous, dynamically connected, small autonomous robots of three types: eye-bots, hand-bots, and foot-bots.”. The high demand and development of home automation has been increasing vastly in recent years due to much higher affordability, simplicity and technology capabilities (David, 2015). With the availability of products which integrate mobile devices and cloud networking rapidly increasing, many users can see how new technology can impact their everyday lives. Being able to control aspects of our houses, and for having the feature to respond automatically to events, it is becoming more and more popular and necessary due to security and cost purposes.  Ultimately, many technologies can be of some use in helping us to address human issues (and some are extraordinarily powerful). But none of them can be relied on to address them for us in every circumstance.

All of these features such as A.I and the IoT are activated through this small computer, and through it’s capabilities have replicated and depicted forms of digitally communicated and dystopian figures. Hence, representing more than just machines to which I will demonstrate through my research and practice. Gopnik’s article highlights different perspectives addressing the digital age, introducing them as Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers (Gopnik, 2011). He notes that the reality of machines can outpace the imagination of magic, leading to a society less in morals that remains mostly in static. This work challenges the functions of analogue and digital machines, where I will aim to combine the two notions, creating new circuits of connection and circulation. My Digital Artefact not only acts as a research hub developing and discovering ideas but also holds a social utility which aims to educate and immerse outside viewers in a tutorial-eque manner. My video/blog series will soon include my first hand encounter with Arduino, steps in which I began to experiment, ideas of circuits and what they can do within the Rube Goldberg Machine and of course the finished machine itself – where all of these direction do obtain their own form of technological/resourceful magic.


Bruce, J 2011,  ‘What Is Arduino & What Can You Do With It? [Technology Explained]. MakeUseOf, date accessed: 22 Mar. 2017, < >

David, N., Chima, A., Ugochukwu, A. and Obinna, E. (2015). Design of Home Automation System Using Arduino. International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, Vol.6, Edition 6, pp.795-801, date accessed: 20 Apr 2017 < >

Doukas, C. 2012,  ‘Building internet of things with the Arduino.’ 1st ed. [S.l.]: C. Doukas.

Gopnik, A 2011, ‘How the Internet Gets Inside Us’, The New Yorker, date accessed: 20 Apr 2017 < >

Mattern, F. and Floerkemeier, C. (2010). From The Internet of Computers to The Internet of Things. 1st ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp.242-259. < >


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