A few months back Lead Scientist Matthew Borgatti reprised his role as robotics mercenary and general fixer, spending a week working on David Nunez’s Requiem for Rhinos installation at Illuminus Boston. David is a researcher with Todd Machover’s Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab. The idea at the core of the sculpture is the passing of Nabire, one of the last northern white rhinos in existence. Only four remain and they are so closely related that rekindling the species is impossible. The sculpture was conceived as a grand send-off, with Nabire’s kin descending from the ceiling to wish her on her way.



The sculpture consists of five 1/3 scale mechanical rhinos made from laser cut plywood and wire. They all have animatronic gimbals to control head and neck movement. They also have LED lighting tucked inside and a few stepper motor controlled aesthetic gears. They are rigged to travel vertically through a distributor plate and stepper controlled winch. Matthew's role in the project became managing the timetable and deliverables, designing and fabricating the remaining elements, coordinating volunteers, and assisting the install. After some last minute triage to deliver on time, five animatronic rhinos were installed and the audience seemed pretty positive about the whole thing.


One of the exciting elements of the project was that it was designed and assembled at the MIT Media Lab. The lab has been on Matthew's radar for a while as a potential place to continue soft robotics development projects. It was illuminating connecting with students and researchers there, hearing their opinions on the organization, and learning about their work. It is interesting considering where Super-Releaser research may fit in. The current plan is to keep developing projects that advance the ease of designing and fabricating soft robots and release lessons-learned into the open source and see where things go from there.

Matthew Borgatti