Habitual Instinct is an interactive physical installation that consists of a series of robots made up of motors and ultrasonic sensors. Each robot scanning the environment in front of it by rotating the ultrasonic distance sensor around the x-axis of the attached servo motor. Each robot is in search of participants within a continuously changing angle threshold and distance measurement. These values are algorithmically updated and constantly adapt in real time throughout the duration the piece is powered on. The movement of each sensor is also algorithmically generated to behave in an unpredictable way but tries to mimic the organic and natural movement of animals. This association is done to help viewers embrace and bond with the technology. Each object responds to its observation of a viewer interacting with it, is independent from each of the other robots, yet there still is a degree of group awareness and cohesion in the piece. When a robot detects a participant within their “caring cone”, the area where the sensor can detect participants, the robot will acknowledge the participant but then immediately react in a way to ignore the existence of the user that just engaged with the installation.
The data collected through the sweeping ultrasonic distance sensors are semantically organized and sent to a cloud storage service and archived. From the cloud, the data points that have been archived get sent to a software program that projects a visual interpretation of the collected data collected. This data represents the physical world and the interactions that users have made with the installation, and the installations understanding of the physical world. All of this happens in real time allowing users to connect their participation movement, the data collected and how the digital world tries to understand the physical environments they are placed in.
Building from the principles of Affect Theory, Habitual Instinct aims to help participants reflect on their interactions with technology by generating a feeling in the viewer through the acknowledgment that the installation is constantly taking data from them rather than providing information to the participant. This alternative one way interaction (which today might be perceived as a “glitched” interaction) may be perceived by participants as having lost the ability to control our digital and physical identity. How the participants interactions are perceived and interpreted by the installation, as well as the historic notion that technology only existed to benefit humans will be found unsettling. The intention of creating a piece that provokes such a feeling is to bring attention to the value, both socially and monetarily that a user holds and provides when they participate, share and interact with the connected world. To demonstrate the intangibility and abstractness of digital interactions, Habitual Instinct aims to concretize physical interactions that users have performed with the piece and communicate to them in a tangible yet conceptual way. By offering an experience of a potential future where human interactions are taken for granted by technology, Habitual instinct gets the participant to question their own understanding of their digital participation, their digital and monetary value as an individual and re-evaluate the importance of online privacy.
Habitual Instinct exemplifies the importance of knowing what information is being collected about you, around you, where that data is being stored, who has access to it and what is the intent of this collected data.