This past Friday, October 19th, over three-hundred participants lit up the rainy night's sky as the internationally acclaimed dance company Pilobolus premiered UP: The Umbrella Project at the PopTech Conference. Watch a behind-the-scenes video below!
The result of Pilobolus's second collaboration with the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory (under the leadership of Professor Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT), UP is a large-scale, live performance piece that arms untrained participants with umbrellas fabricated with multi-colored LED lights.
Onlookers witnessed the stunning spectacle as more than 250 volunteers moved through Camden Harbor Park & Amphitheatre wielding these umbrellas (using more than one-thousand multi-colored LED lights and nearly fifty pounds of batteries). Via hand-controls fabricated by MIT, each participant manipulated the color of his/her own umbrella, creating an ever-changing landscape of hues - or pixels on a screen, as seen in the real time bird's eye view projection - as they moved through the space to create the piece. A second performance of UP is currently being planned for Spring 2013 in Boston.
"We've discovered that Daniela Rus is interested in the same questions as we are regarding the power of groups and the idea that groups are more capable than the sum of their parts," explained Itamar Kubovy, Executive Director of Pilobolus. "UP works to demonstrate this reality by giving a group of untrained strangers tricked out umbrellas and 60 minutes to create something beautiful and moving."
"We are so excited to work with Pilobolus on this project that brings cutting edge robots and computation together with people in an artistic expression. In our lab we are working on collaborative decision making for robots. The Umbrella Project allows us to explore our theories on collaboration in the context of crowds and to extract hypotheses for future approaches to robot control. Working on this with the Pilobolus team is a very enriching experience. We are excited and grateful for the opportunity!" explained Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.
UP: The Umbrella Project was created by Robby Barnett, Matt Kent, and Itamar Kubovy in collaboration with the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory, Professor Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, and MIT postdoctoral researchers Kyle Gilpin and Cagdas Onal.
Pilobolus is a modern performance company, founded in 1971, that to this day wears its revolutionary stripes on its sleeves. In keeping with its fundamentally collective creative process, Pilobolus Dance Theatre now curates and convenes groups of diverse artists- including the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory, Art Spiegelman, OK Go, Radiolab, and many others-to make inventive, athletic, witty, collaborative performance works on stage and screen using the human body as a medium for expression. Pilobolus makes art to build community. It teaches its group-based creative process to performers and non-dancers alike through popular, unique educational projects and programs. This collection of activities is called the Pilobolus Institute. Pilobolus also applies its method of creative invention to a wide range of movement services for film, advertising, publishing, commercial clients, and corporate events. This division is called Pilobolus Creative Services. The 2012 season marks Pilobolus's 42nd year. In keeping with the energy and spirit of its biological namesake-a phototropic fungus that thrives in farmyards-the company has continued to grow toward the light, expanding and refining its unique methods of collective creative production to assemble a repertoire of over 100 choreographic works. While it has become a stable and influential force in the world of dance, Pilobolus remains as protean as ever, looking forward to the next 40 years of collaborating on the future.
The Distributed Robotics Laboratory at CSAIL, MIT develops the science of networked autonomous robots. An important theme in their work is self-organization for multi-agent systems: the study of computational process that interact with each other and with the physical world by means of perception, control, and communication. These processes can adapt and reconfigure in response to changes in the task requirement or in the environment.
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