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The MAKE:lab at Chalmers

20141108_Make02AMaterial Actuation and Kinetic Experimentation Laboratory at Chalmers was founded by Stig Anton Nielsen in September 2015 as a consequence of both the donation of a large industry robotic arm, and the funding for quality in education at Chalmers. The laboratory will provide the students and researchers with the opportunity to develop ideas on more advanced material explorations, based on actuator systems and sensor systems. So far one intense workshop has taken place during two weeks of October 2015.

Ossa Waw – Mapping Urban Phenomena


Ossa Waw 2011, a convention for architecture students from Poland and other European countries. Our workshop called Mapping Urban Phenomena sought to design and construct active ‘synapses’ for the urban environment. Image to the left is the project ‘Grass’ which communicates local information about temperature (color) and wind conditions (flex) through this simple material and sensor activated installation. The prototype was supposed to be placed numerous places in the urban environment, allowing for occupants to stay informed of other local climatic conditions. Other projects like The Scent of Location would through the phenomena Scent Memory, give occupants of the space an experience of dislocation through the use of scent.

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Underactuated Gripper



We designed, created and tested an underactuated soft gripper able to hold everyday objects of various shapes and sizes without using complex hardware or control algorithms, but rather by combining sheets of flexible plastic materials and a single servo motor. Starting with a prototype where simple actuation performs complex varied gripping operations solely through the material system and its inherent physical computation, the paper discusses how embodied computation might exist in a material aggregate by tuning and balancing its morphology and material properties.

We can define embodied computation as information processing in which the physical realization and the physical environment play an unavoidable and essential role [1]. In this paper we will discuss embodied computation and suggest a material system that has reduced actuation complexity and performs gripping instead through an embodied material computation. Human-robot Interaction can manifest indirectly, in the sense that robots should be able to interact with the same environments humans do. This requires a certain resemblance between robots and humans: in behavior, morphology, materiality, and scale. But how do we determine what similarities relevant, and should we mimic or replicate these mechanisms? What aspects of embodied computation are relevant to the design of material systems, morphology, and material behavior? One major challenge in robotics is picking up and holding everyday objects without crushing them. For that we have created an adaptive, robust gripper able to interact with a large number of real objects from an office environment and with humans. Traditionally in computer-science, software has been developed and analyzed separately from hardware. In embodied computing the computation is seen as happening ”as a physical system in continuing interaction with other physical systems (its environment)”. [1]. Information processing is implicit here because the physical environment performs some computations for free. Redstr¨om argues that computers can be seen as a kind of material, and that their computational capabilities must be combined with other kinds of materials in order to create a computational composite, so that the computer becomes useful in design [2]. This paper contributes a design of an underactuated gripper, a computational aggregate made up of material composites in a soft mechanical system, with an emphasis on morphology and material behavior interacting with the real environment. II. RELATED WORK Many robotic hand designs focus on mechanically replicating the human hand, controlling each joint independently using many actuators. On the other hand, underaction designs employ less actuators in order to control a larger number of joints. One of the first examples of an underactuated soft gripper, similar to a bicycle chain, was developed using pulleys and twenty articulations. It was able to conform objects of arbitrary shapes [3]. However, the design of this gripper only permitted holding an object in one plane. Another example of a soft universal gripper could conform around a complex object from all sides, and hold it by contracting the granular material it was made from [4]. This is a good example of embodied computing where a computational composite is used. The granular material automatically computes and shapes around an object, simplifying and avoiding the problems multifingered robotic hands experience when needing to compute the force and position required to control each finger. A simple design employing material intelligence can thus avoid both hardware and software complexities.



Oslo Centralstation

Oslo S_Bjorvika_krediteres

A competetion done the architects office COBE. The roof is used as the overarching element to unite the otherwise incomprehensible conglomerate of hallways and entries. The roof is inspired by a paperfolding tecnique and this same structural system is draping the station area in a holistic gesture. The competetion was done in collaboration with DSB Architects 2008

Oslo S_Aerial_krediteres Oslo S_Entrance_krediteres Oslo S_Interior mPERSON_krediteres



Dermoid In spring 2009 Prof. Mark Burry won the prestigious Velux Visiting Professorship Award to work with CITA, Centre for IT and Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture over a two year period. The aim for the Visiting Professorship was to explore how computation may lead to new material practices in architecture.
The installation Dermoid marks the culmination of this process. It simultaneously demonstrates the wealth of accumulated knowledge, design techniques and research methodology generated as a product of this international collaborative effort. Dermoid was unveiled in March 2011 as part of the “1:1 – Research by Design” exhibition at the School of Architecture.
Bottom: The deformation in the structure is investigated through laserscanning. The scanpoints are analysed via custom written code, recognizing connection points in the structure, these can then be used for comparison against the digital model. 2011


Responsive Environments


The 10 days workshop Responsive Environments resulted in projects where the change of environmental or material behavior was explored through the use of localised IC technology. Material change was explored in both The Curtain and The Bags project, where large scale prototypes would interact with the envorinment and change their material expression accordingly. The Cube was and The Cup was attempting use light, sound and vibration to actively stimulate their environments to change.
EASA(european architecture student association) 12 students workshop in manchester. Organized and run with David Engell Jessen (DK) 2010. back

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Tangible Interaction Course

A user and sensor-computation driven building game was developed by a group of master students at Dept. of Applied IT, Chalmers, during the Tangible interactions course. The project investigate the emergence in manually assembled structures that grow based on predefined gaming rules. The concept of plants struggeling for light was in addition informed by multiple pressure sensors, as well as 3d scanning. The user guidance was done through projection mapping. The project was presented as working showcase at TEI2014 in Munich.
Tutors: Alexandru Dancu, Stig Anton Nielsen.
Students: Max Witt, Catherine Hedler, Hanna Frank, Axel Pelling, Christian Carlsson.

Publication: Emergent Interfaces: Constructive Assembly of Identical Units, 2015. back


Extracting Data for The Making


The interactive exhibition set up at Chalmers Campus was inviting bypassers to build on the structures, that were constantly guided by local sensor information. The structure would balance airflow, shading and balance all at the same time, but with a hierarchical Subsumption architecture, inspired by Rodney Brooks’ research on autonomous robots and artificial intelligence.







Publication: Layered subsumption embodied in units of intelligent material building systems 2014.