Augmented Fish Reality



Augmented Fish Reality is an interactive installation of 5 rolling robotic fish-bowl sculptures designed to explore interspecies and transpecies communication. These sculptures allow Siamese Fighting fish to use intelligent hardware and software to move their robotic bowls - under their control. Siamese fighting fish have excellent eyes which allow them to see for great distances outside the water. They have color vision and seem to like the color yellow.

From the most recent research into fish intelligence in a publication edited by Culum Brown at the University of Edinburgh, the publication discusses revisions about fish intelligence, which is much greater than formerly thought. Fish are now regarded as “steeped in social intelligence” and the report says “pursuing Machiavellian strategies of ‘manipulation, punishment and reconciliation” while also displaying ‘cultural’ traditions; and co-operating to view predators and obtain food. It is said that fish monitor the social prestige of other fish as and track the relationships of other fish in their environment. It is now widely supported that fish use tools and build nests as well as exhibit “impressive long-term memories.” Fish have the ability to mentally map their environments in finding food, creating relationships with each other and avoiding predators.

This design uses 4 active infrared sensors around each bowl which allow the fish to move forward & back and turn the bowls. By swimming to the edge of the bowl the fish activate motorized wheels that move the robots in that direction. Humans will interact with the work simply by entering the environment. In past artworks I have found that the Siamese fighting fish move toward humans, presumably because they associate humans with food. Still, these are robots under fish control and the fish may choose to approach and/or move away from the human participants and each other. These bowls consist of a living environment of peace lillys, which help to absorb the waist stream from the fish. The bowls and robots are designed to allow the fish to get to within 1/4 inch of each other for visual communication between the fish, both male and female. Small lipstick video cameras mounted on forty-five degree angles under two of the bowls image the interior of the fish bowls as well as humans in this environment and these images are intercepted with transceivers and projected back to the walls of the installation and give human participants a sense both looking to the interior of the tanks and feeling as if they are immersed in the tanks.

Siamese Fighting Fish are found in Thailand and the Malay peninsula, and are called by the Thailanders "pla kat," for biting or tearing fish. Siamese fighting fish are particularly aggressive in the presence of other male Bettas. When they observe another Betta they flare their gills, and swim aggressively and it is common for male Bettas in the same tank to fight to the death.

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