program 2021

The Oneiroid

Natalia Alfutova
“This video is the first part of the series starring Oneiroid, a worm-like robot with an AI-driven personality. There is no CGI, no post-processing; it’s a good old honest documentary even if the video does not look like one. This video star is the robot controlled by the artificial neural network processing the visual input from its camera eye. AI controls every movement of the Oneiroid’s body, and at the same time, we can observe how this AI sees the surrounding world through the interface that demonstrates the robot’s vision on the external screen. We watch how his biased perception makes a lady scientist look almost like another worm-like creature.
Unknown is scary. The unnamed unknown is even scarier. We give it a name; we call it Oneiroid, but does it really help? Do we better understand its nature? Is it a result of natural mutation or a human mistake? Can we coexist, and if yes, who poses more danger to whom? Very similar questions worry people for more than a year now: pandemia has changed the way we live and our relationships with everything other and alien. Oneiroid embodies the alienness, looking strange and perhaps dangerous. In the world of social distancing and do-not-touch behavior, the girl caressing Oneiroid breaks the rules and seems almost criminal. This scene makes us experience tactile sensations of slimy skin under our palms; of course, we identify ourselves with a neat scientist. But what if we are wrong, if we are aliens occasionally caressed by a passing scientist? Why does the scientist care about the robot’s memory, and how personal and emotional can the robot’s memory be? Can Oneiroid be missing a human touch — and why in the final seconds we feel compassion towards the robo-monster left alone?”