A New Zealand Makerbot pops in to say Hi

March 5th, 2011 by NearInteraction

Today we were lucky enough to have a visit from a Makerbot and his maker, Tiago Rorke. Besides giving a demonstration of the 3D printer, and a run down on digital fabrication techniques, Tiago also brought in what he is probably best known for, his latest project that has been traveling the world quite a bit lately, his Tardigotchi.

To paraphrase Wired UK who explains, the Tardigotchi is an artwork that features two pets: a tiny living organism and a virtual representation of that organism that behaves analogously, known as an artificial-life avatar. Both are encased within a portable computing enclosure comprised of a brass sphere housing the avatar on an LED screen and a tardigrade within a prepared slide.

Owners tend to a real and virtual creature simultaneously. By pushing a button, the virtual pet is fed, which in turn will feed the tardigrade with a watery medium clouded with atomised moss particles — delicious nectar to the moss-dwelling mortal.

For the uninitiated, a tardigrade is a common and hardy microorganism measuring less than half a millimetre long and commonly (and wonderfully) known as water bears or moss piglets. They are water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs and they apparently walk in a way that resembles a bear’s gait, hence the “water bear” nickname.

The on-screen avatar is a caricature of our little water bear, which behaves partly autonomously but partly triggered by its real-life counterpart’s activities.

If you want to share some virtual love with Tardigotchi try sending an email to the virtual creature, tardigotchi@tardigotchi.com, which will trigger a heating lamp, to temporarily warm the tardigrade and prompt his pixelated avatar to soak up the animated sun. He also has a Facebook page.

Tiago will be running a NearLab workshop with us at the end of March in Lisbon. Stay tuned or refer to the eventbrite events page here.