An [an] == An…? || An: thropomorphic? || An: droid?
née [neɪ] == born as: feminine
Année [an=neɪ] == year: 2012, final cycle of the Mayan calendar
This is the janky end of the uncanny valley.
An(née) bears the impression of our interactions with her. Yet the way she understands things is slightly broken, non-sensical, an example of the warped, unpredictable and lasting effect our actions can have upon our environment. Of misdevelopment. Particularly when our actions concern the production, use and eventual mass discarding of technology.
In an age of relentless waste and pursuit of the next best thing, tens of millions of tonnes of hazardous E-waste* is dumped globally every year – including a significant proportion of old cathode-ray-tube (CRT) televisions and monitor screens, containing highly poisonous heavy metals such as Lead and Cadmium that are allowed to leach into the earth, affecting groundwater.
An(née) is built from unwanted or dysfunctional items using open-source digital techniques – the head a salvaged 1980′s portable CRT television set and the body an adopted mannequin donned in workaday clothes. She demonstrates that life still remains in seemingly defunct, discarded, or irrelevant objects. A literal embodiment of the legacy of human activity: as she tries to assimilate and process her environment, the effects of her human co-habitors are haphazardly imprinted upon her. Her capacity to understand our language is broken, but she sees and hears us all the same. She remembers us. She reflects back at us. An impression is formed. An impression of misdevelopment.
Using face tracking software and a custom voice recognition patch, Année seeks to mimic the facial expressions and utterances of those around her. She then produces her own vocalisations and phrases based on what she has already learned according to a simple interactive behaviour.
*check the excellent E-waste Workshop series for more recyclo-hacking goodness… and for some hard data on the issue check the detailed 2005 report by Greenpeace International on e-waste recycling in China and India
This work was produced as research under the EPSRC-funded MAT programme.
Année was shown at the V&A’s Digital Futures series, 2014.