Troblion, affective silicon sphere


How can a simple, autonomous object with a universal form become “emotional”? Our ancestral feelings are triggered by very simple mechanisms that came about through a need to improve preservation and reproduction in a natural environment. But when artificial objects start to behave similarly, we risk being trapped by what our brain has been programmed for (instincts). “Troblion” by Stefan Schwabe is an autonomous spherical robot, which simply allows itself to roll around in a sandbox that is partially wet. The software used to program Troblion imposes a few rules on his movement. After a while the surface is covered with a layer of hardened sand. The plastic then disappears under the sand and its aspect becomes more “natural”, and starts to seem more “familiar” to us. But the more it covers itself with sand, the heavier it gets. At some point it’s not even able to move. Now it needs to shell the sand off, and it accomplishes this goal by deforming its silicon skin. The leftover pieces stay there for a while, testifying to its previous activities, which then begin again. Being an archetype, the sphere facilitates the projection of any form of being. So the Troblion slowly becomes “live” for us, and its plodding movements are perfectly logical in its own environment, reinforcing our perception of it being autonomous. So the original silicon sphere becomes appealing, triggering our primary need to relate with other creatures.