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Double-Taker (Snout)

2008 | Golan Levin with Lawrence Hayhurst, Steven Benders and Fannie White

Double-Taker (Snout)

"Double-Taker (Snout)" (interactive installation, 2008) deals in a whimsical manner with the themes of trans-species eye contact, gestural choreography, subjecthood, and autonomous surveillance. The project consists of an eight-foot (2.5m) long industrial robot arm, costumed to resemble an enormous inchworm or elephant's trunk, which responds in unexpected ways to the presence and movements of people in its vicinity. Sited on a low roof above a museum entrance, and governed by a real-time machine vision algorithm, Double-Taker (Snout) orients a supersized googly-eye towards passers-by, tracking their bodies and suggesting an intelligent awareness of their activities. The goal of this kinetic system is to perform convincing "double-takes" at its visitors, in which the sculpture appears to be continually surprised by the presence of its own viewers communicating, without words, that there is something uniquely surprising about each of us.

The following one-minute video shows Double-Taker (Snout) responding to a group of children on their way to morning art classes at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts:

[embed this] [more videos] [quicktimes] [flickr] [youtube]

Project Credits

Golan Levin: Project concept and direction; machine vision programming; motion control and animation.
Steven Benders: RAPID (ABB robot control language) programming; production assistance.
Lawrence Hayhurst: Robot consulting and wrangling; machining and fabrication.
Fannie White: Robot costuming.

Additional RAPID programming: Carlos Martinez and Gregory Rossano.
Project photography: Golan Levin, Renee Rosensteel, Gern Roberts.
Video documentation: Michael Pisano, Mathenee Treco.
Music: Benjamin Lapidus / Sonido Isleo.


Double-Taker (Snout) was commissioned by Robot250, an initiative of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, as one of ten "Big Bot" artworks situated throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The project was enabled through critical support from the CMU Collaborative Machining Center, the Pittsburgh Center For the Arts (PCA), George Moving & Storage Inc., and the ABB Mechatronics and Robotic Automation Research Group. Additional support for this project came from the Creative Capital Foundation, from the Berkman Faculty Development Fund at Carnegie Mellon University, from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship award program, and from an anonymous Trustee of Carnegie Mellon University. The control system for Double-Taker (Snout) was prototyped with Processing, and built in RAPID and openFrameworks using OpenCV. Double-Taker (Snout) premiered at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts where it was exhibited from July 18 until August 3rd, 2008. The project has been kindly featured on BoingBoing and MetaFilter.

The contributions and kindness of many individuals made this project possible. Special thanks are owed to Larry Hayhurst (Director, CMU-CMC), Steven Benders, and Fannie White; Andrea Boykowycz; Matthew Gray; Illah Nourbakhsh, Carl di Salvo, Dennis Bateman and Ian Ingram of the CMU Robotics Institute's Robot 250 program; Laura Domencic, George Davis and Joy Sato of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; Detlef Vogt of George Moving & Storage; Wayne Savage and Bob Kollar of the CMU School of Art; Carrie Chisholm, CMU Multimedia; Kosta Milojevic of ABB Research & Development; Jack Schumacher of ABB Corporate Accounts; and Thomas Fuhlbrigge, Carlos Martinez, and Gregory Rossano of the ABB USCRC-MRA (Corporate Research Center, Mechatronics and Robotic Automation Research Group) of Windsor, Connecticut.

The robot arm used in this project a 6-axis ABB IRB-2400/16 generously loaned by the CMU Collaborative Machining Center was obtained through a grant from the Agile Robotics Alliance (now part of the Robotics Technology Consortium), an initiative that seeks to leverage Pennsylvania's strengths in robotics and computer science into a vibrant, global economic force. Partners in this program include industry, universities, career and technical centers, local governments and private foundations.

Double-Taker (Snout) has been recognized with an Honorary Mention (Interactive Art) in the 2009 Prix Ars Electronica.

Project sponsors

Project Keywords:
Double-taker, double-take, doubletaker, doubletake; interactive art, robotic art, mechatronic art, public art, interactive robot; ABB robot arm, robotics, motion control, computer vision, machine vision, body tracking, person tracking; OpenFrameworks, Processing, OpenCV; googly eye, wobbly eye, wiggly eye, cyclopean, cyclops; snout, trunk, worm robot, robotic worm, wormbot, vermiform apparatus; artificial life, real-time character animation, simulated gesture, synthetic animal body language, eye contact, oculesics, kinetics, surprise.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
(Matthew 6:22-23)

Additional Resources
High-resolution photos and additional videos of Double-Taker (Snout) can be found in this Flickr photoset.
Additional video can be found here.
Snout equipment list.

Images (click to enlarge)

Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout) Double-Taker (Snout)

<i>Double-Taker (Snout)</i> example video, 2008
Double-Taker (Snout) example video, 2008 (68.74 MB)
Unscripted interaction with schoolchildren.
[640x480, H.264 .mov, 1'03''; right-click to download.]
<i>Double-Taker (Snout)</i> demo video, 2008
Double-Taker (Snout) demo video, 2008 (48.43 MB)
Interaction with the artist.
[640x480, H.264 .mov, 0'51''; right-click to download.]