Japanese Media Artist Makes Robotic Flower That Measures Love

Photo of Brooke Larsen
Osaka Hub Writer25 June 2018

Human beings’ relationship with technology is often fraught with malaise, but there are some with more optimistic outlooks who believe machines could improve our wellbeing. Meet Nobumichi Asai, a pioneering media artist integrating technology into his video and installation work.

Nobumichi Asai draws inspiration from his scientific background and integrates technology into art. He’s most well-known for his series of videos and installations featuring projection-mapping technology.

In his film, OMOTE, Asai manipulated this form of expression into his art to look at how people develop a kind of “face language.” “The face is connected with the inner self,” he told Digital Performance about the project. “It reflects the inner feeling …” The result was a revolutionary breakthrough in projection tech, as well as a deep and poignant look into modern Japanese identity.

W0W, Asai’s creative studio, was behind Lady Gaga’s ground-breaking performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Before then, no one had ever used face-mapping technology to project images onto someone while singing. “Even art and entertainment are bringing forward a breakthrough with the expression of the evolution of technology …” he told Makery. “… I see technology as a part of human evolution. I recognize myself as a member of the flow of that evolution, and am excited by it.”

In his most recent exhibition for Media Ambition Tokyo, an urban art and technology showcase, Asai used technology to explore the relationship between humans and machines, in particular the feeling of exhaustion from being inundated with an overwhelming amount of bad news. To combat this feeling of malaise, Asai sought to measure the amount of love and peace in the world through an exhibition called “Connected Flower.”

Connected Flower features a robotic, humanoid flower that opens only when people say loving things online. Using posts made on Twitter to “feed” this flower and help it bloom, Asai shows the audience how often affectionate language is used on the site. The “flower” is perched on top of a globe, and as the kind words pour in, parts of the globe light up to show where they came from. It is a beautiful and reassuring look at how often such words are used.

“I think that, depending on what we do with [technology], it’ll be for better or worse,” Asai says. With this mission in mind, Asai continues to make art that encourages connectedness. “The more technology improves, the more quality of expression evolves.”

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