Charon evolved from Topology of Desire, a prototypal experiment in May of 2012, which aimed to represent the gap between the desire of autonomous systems, expectations of their actions, and the result of their behavior. An autonomous quadrocopter within a motion capture lab was programed to trace the shape of a virtual torus. The motion capture system works by triangulating the location of objects in the room with an array of infrared cameras. This allows one to precisely measure physical locations of space, and describe digital objects in physical space by setting their coordinates to actual locations in the room. Its with this premise that the digital torus was scaled to 10 x 10 x 5 feet in the room and became a semi-tangible object for the drone to interact with.
The drone in the TransLAB, the torus is seen from three views projected on the walls.
As the drone struggled to keep up with an ideal positioned calculated by software, the amount by which it failed to reach its goal became the modifier for a deformation of the virtual torus. This kept the goal of the drone forever beyond its reach, yet was directly related to its attempt to reach it. This struggle is a cybernetic feedback loop between the drone, the flightpath of the drone, and the ecosystem of forms being generated. Over time this cyclical feedback mutates the topology of the torus into organ-like, mucosal, organic forms.
Forever reaching toward the unattainable, the drone could never pass through the surface of this ontological structure, as its boundaries shifted beyond reach with each step taken. This amorphous shifting geometry acts as an Other for the drone to gain a sense of Self from. Charon is an intentional attempt to puncture this ontological structure, and the boundary between the physical and the virtual. By incorporating the human intoCharon, it is in fact the human which becomes Other for the drone. This relationship embraces the agency of the drone and relinquishes some of the hubris often surrounding our societal approach toward technology. Not only was this an attempt to further highlight the drone’s sense of Self, but to embrace a kind of animism inCharon. The constituents of Charon’s subjectivity encompass machine vision, the commingling of Self and Other, and a tremulous spirit beginning to shimmer out of the machine shell.