Dance with the robot - Zimmer gripper in use at dance performance in London

Robots usually come off relatively badly in film productions. If you look at the latest Hollywood blockbusters, they are often depicted as menacing murder machines, sinister figures with evil intentions or shape-shifting aliens who fight epic battles with their human counterparts in busy cities.  Yet the films of the 80s still featured the friendly robot Johnny 5 from "Short Circuit" or "D.A.R.Y.L. ". But then the nasty Terminators or the Alien series appeared on the screen with Schwarzenegger & Co. So it's no wonder that when the public thinks about a future with robots and artificial intelligence, they also have visions of a reign of the machines in their heads.

However, when we look at the current world around us and especially at the people who work with robots, a completely different picture emerges. Today, robots are used, for example, in the medical environment to perform complex and complicated surgical procedures. As reliable assistants, medical robots take on tasks that exceed human capabilities or which cannot be performed by surgeons, internists or nurses in the long run.

With this twofold perception of robots in mind, the creators from the BR Innovation Agency (BRIA) developed their very own dance installation at last year's renowned London De-sign Festival. According to Brooke Roberts-Islam, Fashion Tech Innovator and Co-Director of the BR Innovation Agency (BRIA), their aim was to explore the limits of human-robot interaction and to take away people's traditional "fear" of robots or artificial intelligence. The public's perception of the increasing spread of robot technology should be made more accessible to humans and appear less deterrent to them.

The choreography for this unusual dance performance for humans and machines entitled "Slave/Master" was created by Rose Alice Larkings, artistic director of the London Contemporary Ballet Theatre. The ballet performance formed the core of a multidimensional installation at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. Besides choreography, Alice Larkings was also involved in the dance itself. Together with Merritt Moore, they were the dancers who initially approached their robot dance partners with hesitant curiosity. "However, the mood quickly changed. Aggressively and dominantly, the people revelled in the feeling of power to control and influence the movements of the robots. In the end, the robots appeared exhausted and defeated; they tried to evade their human oppressors," said Rose Alice Larkings, describing the situation. "There was no coming together, there was no reconciliation and no happy ending. " In one scene, one of the robots paused, gesturing to convey breathlessness as it made a sincere effort to keep up with its human partner.

For the installation at the London festival, collaborative robots - so-called Cobots - from the Augsburg robot manufacturer KUKA were used, which can interact safely with humans in one and the same working environment. The grippers for the KUKA Cobots were supplied by the British subsidiary of the Rheinau-based gripping technology specialist Zimmer Group in cooperation with the automation company Adelphi Automation. In view of this exceptional performance, grippers from the Zimmer Group's GPD5010NC-00-A series were chosen. The universal grippers of the GPD5000 series with their elegant steel/steel guide stand for continuous precision, robustness and durability.

The choice of the GPD5000 series seems all the more fitting against the design background that grippers of the same series have been awarded the IF Design Award four times and the Red Dot Design Award three times in 2018.

 "Thanks to the support of leading experts from KUKA Robotics, Adelphi Automation and SCM Handling, and with the help of Autodesk software, we were able to program our robots so that they could act alongside the 'real' dancers on stage and respond to their movements without posing a safety risk," says Brooke Roberts-Islam.

This extraordinary dance performance "Slave/Master" was on show during the entire period of the London Design Festival at the Raphael Gallery in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The performances could be admired eight times a day.

Find a video of this special dance performance here

The Image shows a dancer from the London Ballet together with a KUKA robot and Zimmer gripper // Source: Ian Allardyce @reallynicecontent