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SAM-R (Soft Architecture Machines-Revisited) was an interactive design installation pushing the boundaries of man-machine interfaces and the use of artificial intelligence in playful design environments.

Through a combination of physical blocks, 3D-scanning and projection mapping, students collaborated with an AI-computer to build a structure to their (and the computer's) liking. In this turn-based process, geometry would loop from physical to digital and back again. This geometry thus became embedded with both fantasy and hard logic from both ends of the man-machine spectrum.

The process would unfold as follows:
1) students build one layer of blocks (in a limited timeframe)
2) the geometry is 3D-scanned and analyzed by the computer
3) the table is cleared of blocks
4) the computer projects its vetos and recommendations on the table for the next layer
6) back to step 1: next layer of blocks...

The physical model would thus start from scratch at every layer, but the accumulative digital model was shown on an auxiliary monitor (and in the end 3D-printed). In this installation, the rule-set followed by the computer was a simple structural logic (based on direct neighbourship) and a sunlight analysis. This was translated into a colour+symbol scheme, projected onto the building grid. Ignoring the computer's recommendations would lead to faulty blocks not being scanned.

The installation built upon an experiment called "Seek", conducted by Nicholas Negroponte and the Architecture Machines Group at MIT in 1970, and described in his book Soft Architecture Machines. During this experiment gerbils would instinctively create/adapt an environment of metallic cubes, and a robotic arm would "correct" their moves  in parallel.

In SAM-R, the gerbils were students, and the power to adapt the structure was mediated through a 3D-scanner+projector. The results were 3D-printed and exhibited at the Jokerweek workshop exhibition in the University Forum, Ghent. The installation itself was built to honor the 25th anniversary of the VA&S (Department of Architecture and Urban Planning).

Tools: Kinect, Rhino, Grasshopper, Processing, 3D-printer, paper cubes, students


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