Posts Tagged ‘1974’

1972-4 – Laser-Chromason Mk II – J. S. Ostoja-Kotkowski (Polish-Australian)

Not quite an "art robot", but Kotkowski's Laser Chromason Mark II impressed me greatly in 1974 in terms of Electronic art and Laser art. Its design even has a robotic look about it.

The above images sourced from here, and flipped for correct orientation.

Vol 68 No. 1, 2009.

Light Becomes the Medium — Stephen Jones

…. But Ostoja-Kotkowski wanted to paint with light and it was his discovery of lasers that set his course for the following years. In 1967 he received a Churchill Fellowship and travelled to the United States and Europe where he had the opportunity to take in much of the kinetic art of the time and consider new approaches. He tried out the electronic music studio in Utrecht, Holland, and visited Stanford University in California, where he witnessed experiments using lasers. In an interview with Melbourne Herald science writer Frank Campbell, he explained his interest in the laser, remarking that: ‘No matter how beautifully one paints a sunset it will not be as beautiful as the light of the real sunset. But the light of a laser can give the radiance and the brilliance that paints cannot.’

Ostoja-Kotkowski’s first public use of a laser was in his 1968 Sound and Image (with support from scientists at the Weapons Research Establishment Laser Laboratory in Salisbury, South Australia). He beamed the laser patterns onto a large rear-projection screen by directing them through pieces of distorted glass assembled onto rotating discs so that they refracted the beams of the ruby-red helium-neon laser and the brilliant blue-green argon-ion laser as the program’s rhythm or his interpretation of the music suggested.

Ostoja-Kotkowski was awarded an ANU Creative Arts Fellowship in 1971. With the considerable assistance of the staff of the ANU’s Research School of Physical Sciences workshops, in particular Terry McGee, an electronic technician, he developed a new set of sound-to-light devices, the Laser-Chromasons, which consisted in two small helium-neon lasers as well as six lamps of various colours housed in a 60-cm sphere of translucent perspex. In the base of the device, inputs from a microphone, a synthesiser or tape-recorder were divided up with a set of filters and then assigned to circuits that controlled the brightness of the lamps, whose light was reflected from rotating wavy mirrors, or that vibrated mirrors from which the lasers were reflected.[28] Essentially they show fields of colour shifting and dissolving across a translucent screen pierced by the intense striations of shutter-modulated red laser light…..

S. Ostoja-Kotkowski, ‘The medium is not the message’, Hemisphere, vol. 15, no. 12, December 1971, pp. 18–24; and S. Ostoja-Kotkowski, ‘Audio-kinetic art with laser beams and electronic systems’, Leonardo, vol. 8, 1975, pp. 142–4.


Back in 1974 I made some sketches as I wanted to know how it worked and maybe one day build one. (I never did!)

————————– transparency insert below ————-

Realities 1974 catalogue. (Personal collection)

A 2-page handout from Realities Gallery from 1974. (personal collection)

A rare picture showing both Mark I and Mark II Laser-Chromason's.

Source: Electronics Today International, January 1973 .

Related Material:

Catalogue. (Source: Personal collection)

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1974-99 KYTRON – Rudolf Mittelmann (German)

Partial extract from Mittelmann's  homepage – see here for full description of all KYTRONs.

What is a KYTRON?

A KYTRON is a small autonomous vehicle. Its name comes from KYBERNETIK (German for cybernetics) and ELEKTRONIK (German for electronics).

Another way to define a KYTRON would be as a small electro-mechanical device mimicking some aspects of natural life.

Finally a KYTRON could be described as a small mobile robot doing nothing meaningful except keeping itself happy.

What does a KYTRON do?

A KYTRON drives around, looks for light and tries to avoid obstacles. With enough light from the environment it is able to reload its batteries using its solar panels. In the dark it is able to follow tiny light sources like torches or even the flame of a match.

How does a KYTRON work?

Many people associate KYTRONs with military tanks, at least at first sight. This may be because KYTRONs have caterpillar (crawler) tracks instead of wheels.

In fact, KYTRONs have nothing to do with military equipment at all, and are definitively not armed.

All five KYTRONs built so far feature tracks, but there is no reason that this will not change. I always had the plan to make one with (six) legs, like an insect. I am not much interested in designs with wheels, but then, this may change when I will see pictures of the new Mars rover. I also have to admit that the Lunokhod moon vehicle (8 wheels) of the Russians was a great design.
And yes, I had that soft-lined "translucent design" since 1975 (!!!)… see my images of KYTRON 2 and m-KYTRON 3 below and see also these new ones here and here. (Obviously these new images were taken in 1999.) 

Which KYTRONs were built?

Until now, five KYTRONs were built: KYTRON 1, KYTRON 2, m-KYTRON 3, c-KYTRON 4, and KYTRON 5. In general they became smaller and smaller. Each is introduced below [see Mittelmann's homepage for info on other KYTRONs].



The first KYTRON was done in 1974. The mechanical parts were taken from a toy. The wheels and crawler tracks were plastic parts. The housing was made from foam plastic.


This KYTRON searched for light with three alternative optical sensor devices. The most advanced was a rotating sensor arrangement, using two light sensors looking forward, with an optical shield between them. When either sensor saw light, the motors were started so that the KYTRON would approach the light source.

If no light was seen, every 5 minutes the rotor was activated in order to find light in other directions. When such light, f.i. from behind, was detected, the KYTRON would turn the sensor device back to home position and simultaneously would turn itself to face this light source. Then it would approach it as above.

The obstacle avoidance capability of KYTRON 1 was very limited. It had a mechanical touch sensor on front. When detecting an obstacle, it would stop immediately and drive back a curve to the right. When trying to approach the light again, it would probably touch the obstacle again, but thanks to mechanical fuzziness it would (hopefully) finally manage to get by. KYTRON 1 was 30 cm long, 15 cm wide, and 12 cm tall. It was destructed in 1977 (see KYTRON 4). Its weight was 1.5 kg and its speed was 24 cm/s. It could operate 30-60 minutes from its Pb-gel batteries. The electronics consisted of about 100 parts, including 1 IC.

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