Infusing Art with Technology: Geemo

The project I chose to explore is Geemo: a flexible modular toy with magnetic limbs that attract and repel each other in unpredictable ways. The creator Cas Holman was inspired by natural patterns and was interested in designing units forming irregular patterns. Additionally, the magnetic limbs were left unmarked and uncolored because she felt there was something wonderful about not knowing whether any two limbs would attract or repel until you try.

Essentially, I believe she was interested in exploring creative play through simple forms and a child’s imagination. The toy’s softness helps with this in how it could bend and become different shapes based on magnetic attraction. With this in mind, I then went to find other projects with similar intent but perhaps different execution. I thought that this could include different materials or maybe different shapes.

Papers that I found that explores the movement/flexiblity of soft materials for making robots:

J. M. Bern, G. Kumagai and S. Coros, “Fabrication, modeling, and control of plush robots,” 2017 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2017, pp. 3739-3746, doi: 10.1109/IROS.2017.8206223.

J. M. Bern, L. Z. YaƱez, E. Sologuren and D. Rus, “Contact-Rich Soft-Rigid Robots Inspired by Push Puppets,” 2022 IEEE 5th International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft), Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 2022, pp. 607-613, doi: 10.1109/RoboSoft54090.2022.9762203.

J. -Y. Lee, W. -B. Kim, W. -Y. Choi and K. -J. Cho, “Soft Robotic Blocks: Introducing SoBL, a Fast-Build Modularized Design Block,” in IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 30-41, Sept. 2016, doi: 10.1109/MRA.2016.2580479.

H. Mase, Y. Yoshida and T. Yonezawa, “An interactive stuffed-toy device for communicative description on Twitter,” 2014 Joint 7th International Conference on Soft Computing and Intelligent Systems (SCIS) and 15th International Symposium on Advanced Intelligent Systems (ISIS), Kitakyushu, Japan, 2014, pp. 1360-1363, doi: 10.1109/SCIS-ISIS.2014.7044832.

It was interesting that many soft robotic movements were inspired by toys such as the water balloon/bag, or push-puppet toys. Some papers also took advantage of soft materials to make toys or objects meant for human hugging, and how that combined with technology can help someone. I think a lot of this research could be really interesting for creating lifelike moving objects. I can imagine an exhibition where maybe there’s just a bunch of small soft robots crawling around the ground through different actuation methods. I think that will be very cool and creepy.

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