Untitled Ball

1993
Materials: Plywood, proximity sensor, custom electronics, motor, batteries
Dimensions: 30" sphere moving in a room


Untitled Ball is skeptical about interactivity: when a viewer approaches it, it senses their presence and rolls away. With its unceasing avoidance tactics, Untitled Ball tries to question the value and possibilities presented by electronic interactivity.

The viewer is presented only with a wooden ball about a metre high; there is no hint of the technology contained within the wooden shell. Upon sensing someone within its perimeter of comfort, the piece acts as a probabilistic automaton, rolling in one of several possible directions away from the approaching viewer.

The artificial intelligence of this work, if any, is not due to its electronic design: the combination of unpredictable wood surfaces and a simple internal state machine combine to determine its decisions on the direction of travel. The three-dimensional space the piece inhabits and travels through, the unpredictability of its movements, and the intervention of the viewer provide the bulk of its ‘intelligence’.

The substance of this work rests in its sculptural qualities, rather than in its simple blend of digital and analog electronics. Under the continuous surface of the piece, the technology remains hidden to the viewer, as does the next state or direction chosen by its low-level digital computer intelligence.

The interactivity it presents the viewer with is an embodied one, programmed both organically and prescriptively by the curves of external physicality and the definitive nature of its simple digital states. The resultant way in which Untitled Ball engages the viewer in three-dimensional space tries to explore just how reducible the intangibles of human motion and perception can be, and to what degree technology can mediate or interfere with such decidedly human activities.

Untitled Ball was produced with the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts.