The Robotics, Automation, & Dance (RAD) Lab

The RAD Lab is a collective for art-making, commercialization, education, outreach, and research at the intersection of dance and robotics.  Our practice values the creativity of engineers (particularly those interested in the motion of machines) and the technical insight of artists (particularly those with a physical practice).  We are curious about questions like: What is the sentiment or idea expressed by a particular moving machine? How can it be modified through onstage composition, mechanical and control design, and audience culture and preparation?  How do machines inform our understanding of the phenomenon of human embodiment and intelligence?  In grappling with questions like these, we make work that reflects a deep understanding of how modern machines work.  Sometimes the work takes advantage of the sensationalism that automatically accompanies automation, but the work invariably aims to lift the curtain and explicate the innerworkings of machines, from smartphones to robots, highlighting the audience’s own power over them.  We endeavor to bring the public into the kind of creative relationship with machines that we have in the lab, one that celebrates the value of human movement, agency, and expression, which we believe is inherently highlighted through moving with machines -- or by dancing with robots.

Art Making

Working in collaboration across disciplines, we use an interdisciplinary model that honors the technical contributions of artists and the creative ideas of engineers. 

Commercialization

We work to translate ideas from our work to commercial applications, encouraging our artist-engineer teams to engage in customer interviews and product prototyping.

Education

Working across boundaries always means that everyone in the room has something to learn; thus, we organize workshops that bridge traditional engineering training, kinesthetic studio-based learning, and practical workshop-based education.

Outreach

Our outreach activities teach students about robotics in a format that feels more like dancing than coding -- bolstered by symbolic notation of abstract movement concepts, students translate movement from their own bodies to artificial ones,  learning the basics of robotics along the way.

Research

At the heart of everything we do, we are working to understand how dance can push new frontiers in robotics and how robots push new frontiers in dance.

Director

Amy LaViers is the director of the Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab. Her choreography and machine designs have been presented internationally, including at Merce Cunningham’s studios, the Ferst Center for the Arts, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, and the Performance Arcade. Her writing has appeared in Nature, American Scientist, and Aeon. She is a co-founder of three startup companies: AE Machines, an award-winning automation software company; caali, an embodied media company; and, most recently, Soma Measure, a wearable device company. Her teaching has been recognized on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)’s list of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students, with Outstanding distinction. She is a recipient of DARPA’s Young Faculty Award (YFA) and Director’s Fellowship (2015-2018). She has held positions as an assistant professor in mechanical science and engineering at UIUC and in systems and information engineering at the University of Virginia (UVA). She completed a two-year Certification in Movement Analysis (CMA) in 2016 at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) and her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech in 2013. Her research began with her undergraduate thesis at Princeton University where she earned a certificate in dance and a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 2009. From 2002-2005 she toured internationally as a member of the Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble (TCDE).

The Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab
amy@theradlab.xyz
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