THR_33 (Tea House for Robots) is comprised of a responsive environment and a group of robotically-enhanced domestic appliances. It was made for the exhibition: “Trouble in Paradise/Medi(t)ation of Survival” at the The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan. This exhibition reflected on developments since the Kyoto Protocol (that set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 1997).

THR_33 proposed that as our appliances become smarter we might change the way we live and come to think of them. In the manner of Jonathan Chapman’s “Emotionally Durable Design” (2005) perhaps we would cherish these products more if we interacted with them as “pets” rather than the throwaway gadgets we currently create?

When someone approaches the tea house they are visually scanned by by the OMRON Smile Scan. The system measures the degree of a persons smile from a camera-recorded facial image. In THR_33 this controls how much the tea house ìeyesî open. When the ìeyesî open it allows for a direct line of sight between the visitor and the robots. When the robots ìseeî a human being their behavior changes.

The “tea house” structure conforms to the traditional dimensions of a Japanese tea house of 9′ x 9′ x 6′. The tea house skin is made from two layers of precisely cut synthetic paper pieces that interlock with each other. The robots (TST_003, RDO_002, and MXR_011) all have unique traits, behaviors and interactions.

TITLE: THR_33 (Tea House for Robots)

PROJECT TYPE: Interactive Installation

LOCATION: The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan. Curated by Shinji Kohmoto.

Design: Fall 2008 – Summer 2010
Completed: Summer 2010

FUNDING: The Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan; The School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan; Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Omron Corporation; The Aikens family.

CREDITS: John Marshall (rootoftwo), Cezanne Charles (rootoftwo), Karl Daubmann (PLY Architecture)

Assisted by: Chris Johnson, Westley Burger

Additional help provided by: Robert Yuen, Taisuke Murakami, Osman Khan

DIMENSIONS: 9′ (L) x 9′ (W) x 6′ (H)

MEDIA: Plywood, synthetic paper, ABS, aluminum, steel, Arduino microcontrollers, LEDs, speaker, audio, servo motors, sensors, video camera, PC.