Sound for A-Life Agents

  • Melanie Baljko
  • John Kamevaar
  • Nell Tenhaaf
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4738)


The artwork Swell (2003), by Tenhaaf with sound by Kamevaar, has a pod-like amorphous shape and affords the feeling to people that they are dealing with an entity. It has been dubbed by some interactants as a “baby” robot, despite the fact that it has no moving parts and only one ultrasonic distance sensor for detecting its environment (and thus is not robotic). But it has ”baby talk” suitable for a machine: sound as pure signal, that could have no other origin than electronic signal flow itself. Interactants set off electronically-manipulated microphone feedback sounds when proximal to Swell - sounds that become louder and more intense when the interactant moves away and softer as she or he comes closer. The generated sounds are layered: several sounds playing at once generate the assault of noise, whereas a single sound is almost melodic. Through its sound, Swell both commands its space and directs people’s movements; it is thereby perceived as having the potential to mature into a more autonomous entity. The idea of the work is not to elicit beliefs that one is seeing life emerging artificially, but rather to elicit a willingness to talk to this entity.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melanie Baljko
    • 1
  • John Kamevaar
    • 3
  • Nell Tenhaaf
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computer Science and Engineering 
  2. 2.Department of Visual Arts, York University, TorontoCanada
  3. 3.Independent Artist, TorontoCanada

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