Mari Velonaki

Artist and researcher Mari Velonaki creates intellectually and emotionally engaging human-machine interfaces. To date, artificial intelligence (AI) has largely focused on the transfer of human knowledge to machines. Whereas knowledge is understood as information that has been acquired on a given subject, intelligence is more difficult to define. In a general sense, it describes the brain’s ability to reason, learn, plan, deploy abstract reasoning, experience emotions and exercise self-awareness. It is thought to reflect a broader and deeper capability for comprehending one’s surroundings. Velonaki’s poetic human-machine interfaces exist within a broad field of AI research pursuing the creation of truly intelligent non-human objects.

Velonaki has established herself as a leading practitioner at the cross-section between art, science and design. She was the first artist in Australia to deploy a range of intelligent interfaces in her work, including speech recognition (1995), breath activation (1998), computer vision (1999), electrostatic charge measurement (2000), light-reactive screens (2003), robotics, distributed computer systems, laser measurement systems & multi-sensor data fusion (all 2004).

In late 2012 Velonaki embarked upon a collaborative project with leading researchers in the field to investigate intelligence through the creation of interactive wallpaper. This includes Maurice Pagnucco (artificial intelligence), David Silvera Tawil (human-robot interaction), Darren Alvarez (tactile sensing), Francois Ladouceur (materials), and Hugh Durrant-Whyte (robotics and machine learning). The Blue Iris wallpaper will weep, change colour, display (and rearrange) text and drawings in response to human touch, sound, breath and marks made on its surface. It becomes the active skin of a ‘living’ system – an evolving memory bank that collects human-machine communication and data.

CUSP presents Blue Iris in chapters. As Velonaki and her collaborators cultivate new forms of intelligence for the wallpaper between 2013 – 2015, these components will be added to the Blue Iris room, covering the walls in an increasingly responsive and intelligent skin.

Visit Mari Velonaki’s website

With thanks to Maurice Pagnucco, David Silvera Tawil, Darren Alvarez, Francois Ladouceur, Hugh Durrant-Whyte, Rudino Salleh, Burkhard Raguse and Lech Wieczorek. Blue Iris is supported by NICTA, the School of Computer Science and Engineering and the Creative Robotics Lab, National Institute of Experimental Arts, College of Fine Arts, The University of New South Wales.