World’s first robotic sculpture which gave the ‘impression of being alive’ goes on show
The world’s first robotic sculpture to be controlled by a digital computer has gone on display at Warsaw’s Zachęta art gallery.
Created in the late 1960s by the cybernetic art sculptor Edward Ihnatowicz, the 4.5-metre-long ’Senster’ responded to noises and movement picked up on four centrally located microphones and two radar transducers on either side.
A portmanteau of sensual and monster, the Senster enthralled audiences in the early 1970s, at a time when space exploration and mechanical revolution made anything seem possible.
By following the sound and motion of the people around it, the Senster gave the impression that it was alive.
A computer program used to control its hydraulic actuators and move the body, was the forerunner to that used in behaviour-based robotics developed a decade later.
In a 2015 documentary, Ihnatowicz’s son, Richard, said: “The Senster was based on the functionality of a lobster claw.
“All of the structure was hand built. It was a fascinating new world, the computer he had to power it was the size of a fridge and took half an hour to power up.
“It was of its day but ages ahead of its time. You could run the Senster off your phone now, there is a lot of technology that people are blasé about but it wouldn’t have the same impact now.”
Originally displayed in Eindhoven at the Evoluon conference centre from 1970 until 1974, it was later placed outside a corporate office in the Netherlands where it was forgotten about.
Believing it to be lost, it was then added to a list of lost pioneering projects known as the Gallery of Lost Art until it was ‘rediscovered’ by AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow which bought it in 2017 to celebrate its centenary.
Originally from the eastern city of Chełm, after his father was killed during WWII, Ihnatowicz escaped as a refugee through Romania and Algeria before arriving in Liverpool in the UK.
He met his future wife whilst studying at a Polish college in Glasgow before moving to the prestigious Ruskin School of Art at Oxford.
He died in London of a heart attack in 1988.