Empathy Swarm – Telehabitats

Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan, Empathy Swarm, 2018
Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan, Empathy Swarm, 2018. © Katrin Hochschuh and Adam Donovan. Courtesy of Werkleitz Festival


Are robots capable of empathy? Artist Katrin Hochschuh and artist Adam Donovan explore this question in their installation. With the help of emotion recognition algorithms and camera tracking, a swarm of 50 robots adapts its behavior and interacts with the audience. Formation, animation and movement become the linguistic expression of the swarm. The goal of the work is to use Deep Learning to train the robots to respond empathically to the facial expressions of humans.

With their antithesis to, or extension of, humanoid robots like the famous "Sophia," Hochschuh and Donovan show that even non-anthropomorphic robots can learn and display emotions like empathy. In 1944, psychologist Fritz Heider and his colleague Marianne Simmel demonstrated in a simple animated film how easy it is for the human brain to form an emotional bond with an inanimate object and how strongly empathy is embedded in the human brain. The installation based on this research is an experiment and a social test for human-robot interaction.

This work was realized as part of the European Media Art Platforms (EMAP) program at KONTEJNER (HR) with the support of the Creative Europe Cultural Program of the European Union.

— Source: Werkleitz festival's website, translated from German with DeepL

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