“What if…?” This simple, yet powerful question evokes the kind of imagination and creativity that inspires ideas, instils courage, and transforms economies. As we transition through the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which interconnectivity has enabled a global economy, ETH Zurich researchers are already anticipating the human aspects that will define the Fifth Industrial Revolution.
Demonstrating human and machine interaction, ETH Zurich presents an interactive exhibition next week during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. With a thematic focus on
, the exhibition features five novel prototypes that demonstrate how creativity factors into scientific discovery and technological development.
Creativity inspires infinite quantum possibilities
When stepping into the ETH Zurich pavilion visitors come face-to-face with the multiple realities of superposition - a fundamental principle in quantum physics. Albert Einstein, an ETH Nobel Laureate, would likely roll over in his grave if he were to see the magnetically levitated orbs that come next in the exhibit. He would call it “spooky action at a distance,” as one orb is set into rotation, an independent, yet mysteriously connected orb across the room reacts demonstrating quantum entanglement. Culminating with the Pond of Possibilities, visitors encounter a tangible way of understanding quantum interference and qubits through propagating waves. Think back to that time you threw a rock into a pond as a child and watched as the concentric circles expand. Then, your sibling threw another rock that interfered with your perfectly expanding waves. Waves are everything in quantum physics and when researchers explore quantum computations, they manipulate waves letting them interfere with each other to achieve a speciﬁc result.
A robot with creative problem-solving skills
Endowing robots with a human-level of dexterity drives computer scientists and engineers alike. The PuppetMaster lays the groundwork for the Fifth Industrial Revolution anticipating how future robots and humans will interact in creative and productive ways. Advances in artificial intelligence promise to bring about new generations of robots that will become trusted social companions, skilled co-workers, and dependable assistants to those who need support for various everyday tasks. In Davos, the PuppetMaster robot exploits numerical simulation models to play a simple cup-and-ball game and to animate marionettes. Just as children play such games to develop motor skills and creative problem-solving abilities, robots too can learn. This demo paves the way for future generations of dexterous robotic companions and co-workers.
Imagination comes to life
Technology has dramatically changed the way children play, the way they imagine characters, create stories and even solve quests. Playing in virtual worlds tackles the shortcomings of physical toys, as computers can generate full character animations and expressions with very little input. PuppetPhone implements a novel interaction metaphor that reduces the gap between physical toys and virtual characters. Moving a smartphone around, an augmented reality puppet responds in real-time. The virtual character comes to life responding to a user’s gestures, as if attached to the phone with a rigid stick. In the R
INKING CREATIVITY exhibition, the virtual character makes a snowman that also comes to life as a companion in an imaginary story.
Saving material with 3D printing
The Concrete Choreography installation investigates how emerging digital technologies can be used to create contemporary architectural features by rethinking the iconic column. Columns have played an integral role in the development of the human environment - as structural elements, as well as aesthetic or decorative features. In under two hours, a robot 3D printer using a fast-setting concrete mix is able to build the bespoke and digitally designed columns on display in Davos. Achievable only because the concrete 3D printer prints in 'high resolution' with each layer just five millimetres thick and 25 millimetres wide. In addition to aesthetic appeal, this new process could introduce a more ecological way of building with concrete. The layering process means that the pillars can be hollow, requiring no formwork and less material than traditional methods of construction.
Robots that take on life-like qualities
Creative solutions require that diverse talents, from engineers to artists, work side-by-side. Crossing disciplines enabled mechanical engineers to imbue life-like animatronics into the Walking Canvas. Part of project PATHOS at Wyss Zurich, the canvases make their public debut at the ETH Zurich Pavilion in Davos. They navigate around autonomously mimicking the human gait. While the future of robotics research is both fascinating and frightening, one thing is certain – creativity will play an essential role.
ETH spinoff companies, Tastelab and Planted offer up some of the best food in Davos at the restaurant / café within the ETH Pavilion. If you find yourself in Davos next week, the R
INKING CREATIVITY exhibition in the ETH Zurich Pavilion is definitely a must see!