Tour stops


Bratislava – Slovakia

NaoMI in Bratislava with the artist Emma Záhradníková NaoMI in Bratislava with the artist Emma Záhradníková | © Goethe-Institut Art student Emma Záhradníková and artist Richard Kučera Guzmán focused on learning and unlearning in their collaboration with NaoMI. For pupils aged 10 to 14, they developed a game that involves putting oneself in "a robot’s skin". In an era of increasingly human-like machines, they inquire how NaoMI can be either dehumanised or humanised, and how young people react to the differing situations.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Bremen – Germany

NAO-Fußballteam Uni Bremen In Bremen, GAIA was supervised by Rebecca Klimasch, who is studying digital media, and by computer science student Nico Nienaber. They lived with the robot in their Bremen flat for four weeks. Neither had ever worked directly on a robot before. They were particularly interested in the everyday interaction between humans and machines. But even before GAIA travelled to Bremen, it was clear that there was one thing it was meant to do here above all: Play football. After all, the University of Bremen is a leader in programming football robots and eight-time world champion in international robot football championships. Without previous training, however, GAIA found it quite difficult to join the world's top team. But Rebecca Klimasch and Nico Nienaber were able to teach her to recognise a ball, head for it and shoot it.

Click on the picture to play the video:
They also brought GAIA closer to a bit of northern German culture with a Bremen quiz. At the end of the residency, both agree that digitalisation ought to be supported even more in Germany and Europe. After all, we all have to learn to “deal competently with technology”.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

​Budapest – Hungary

Budapest Intermedia artist Loránd Szécsémyi-Nagy and IT engineer Dénes Kraszulyak explored digital image-making with their project Binary Coded Images. They taught NaoMI to type what she sees in front of her on an electric typewriter. The images - like any code - are subject to a binary logic. The image is divided into pixels and done in black and white. Light colour spaces are marked by spaces using the space bar, dark colour spaces with a character. To do this, the robot first creates a photo with its camera, then reduces it in size and adds a strong contrast. Then NaoMI begins to type. Designing the hand movement was a particular challenge for the artist and coder team. But after a short time, NaoMI was able to type images and in doing so generate deeper insights into the mechanisms of image creation. Her "works" balance on the edge of interpretability and leave a lot of room for the viewer to decode. In the end, NaoMI even managed to produce a self-portrait. It is doubtful whether she recognised herself in it.

Click on the picture to play the video:
  Budapest © Goethe-Institut

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Bucharest – Romania

“NAO, my cute friend” – games, limitations and robot ethics in Bucharest... “NAO, my cute friend” – games, limitations and robot ethics in Bucharest... | © Goethe-Institut On 1 March 2021, NaoMi arrived in Bucharest in Romania and was introduced to its new “host parents” for the next two months. The three students from the University of Theatre and Film had successfully applied for the scholarship offered by the Goethe-Institut Bucharest as part of the project Robots-in-Residence. Together with the Goethe-Institut's project partner CINEtic, Maria Bucurenciu, Cristina-Maria Misirgic and Cristina Bodnarescu thought about what the little robot could learn with and from them over the next few weeks...

Maria Bucurenciu then announced the team's decision: “We decided it would be a performance with me and NAO. He is to play our childhood games with me on stage and meanwhile I will have a conversation with him in which he will ask me various self-reflective questions. This way we aim to provide a dual perspective - one where NAO is my cute friend and we play all kinds of games, and one where the focus is on what robots are, what their limitations are, and all the other questions about robot ethics.”
Maria Bucurenciu, Cristina-Maria Misirgic and Cristina Bodnarescu Maria Bucurenciu, Cristina-Maria Misirgic and Cristina Bodnarescu | © Goethe-Institut The students presented the results of their work with NaoMi to the public at an event entitled “PlayMates: A Human-Robot Performance”, says Maria Bucurenciu:
“When I was little and my mother was too busy to play with me, I played a game with myself called 'Cristina vs Maria'. That way it never mattered who won – what did count was what I learned while playing and, of course, the fun I had while playing. Since NAO looks so much like a child, the first thing you want to do with it is: play. So when we think about the children of the future, maybe they won't have to play games like 'Cristina vs Maria'. Maybe they can always have a robot pal as a playmate. Our project with NAO ends with a performative game between a human and a robot. What could possibly go wrong?!”

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Dublin – Ireland

Dublin In February and March 2021 GAIA was hosted in Dublin. Together with coder Niamh Donnelly, artist David Beattie explored the robot's potential to learn how to touch and how to move its hands. Accompanying this investigation is the question of whether robots will be able to alleviate loneliness or help us in our daily lives in the future. For humanoid robots like the NAOs it is still very difficult to perform activities that are completely natural and commonplace for humans. This includes grasping objects. In Dublin, GAIA should be programmed to pick up things and to carry them from one place to another.

Click on the picture to play the video:

© Goethe-Institut
Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Glasgow – Scotland

Glasgow The development and specification of so-called "social" robots is regularly used to fuel fears of job destruction and the displacement of humans. In the future, robots should ideally act as companions and assistants to humans instead of replacing them. They can make life easier and enrich it, they can awaken curiosity and imagination. And they can visualise other forms of self-expression and thus support the inclusion of and respect for non-conformist lifestyles. Tom Krasny and Jen Sykes in Glasgow took this fact as the starting point for their project. They decided to teach GAIA two practices rooted in LGBTQ history that initiated a positive and necessary change in social perception.

During her time in Glasgow, GAIA learned the dance style Vogue, which emerged in the ballroom scene of Harlem, New York’s homosexual subculture in the 1970s. She also studied pronouns. GAIA is able to recognise faces and identify genders. But this ability implies a bias - a bias that the supposedly objective machine brings with it. Jen Sykes and Tom Krasny thought about alternatives and set up a speech recognition process in which GAIA first asks for the pronouns of the human with whom it is interacting.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Groningen – Netherlands

GAIA is cute. Almost everyone succumbs to her charm and friendly demeanour. In Groningen, GAIA was to learn boxing. Although it is hard to think of autonomous weapons or so-called "killer robots" when looking at GAIA, such machines are already being developed and continually perfected. And even GAIA could - theoretically - be programmed in a very simple way to aim a gun at people. With his project “MAN vs NAO”, Maathuis aimed to set up in a very playful way a possible encounter between humans and robots that is by no means characterised by mutual goodwill. This also raises the question of whether a violent robot should take responsibility for its own actions. But before GAIA could even begin to act aggressively, she had to train hard: Footwork, push-ups, fending off blows and over and over again - exercises with the punching bag. 
GAIA in the boxing ring in Groningen, Netherlands GAIA in the boxing ring in Groningen, Netherlands | © Floris Maathuis Floris Maathuis looked for different ways to give GAIA an unfriendly appearance and demeanour, including taking a cue from the doll Chucky from Child’s Play. “I’m afraid people will find this funny, if anything. It’s not easy to make a robot that was designed to look cute look unfriendly,” he concluded in his blog.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Copenhagen – Denmark

NAO learns to sing and clap NAO learns to sing and clap | © Goethe-Institut Patricia, who is studying digital design and interactive technologies at the IT University in Copenhagen, had the little robot at her home in spring 2021. She tried to teach the humanoid robot some songs - and succeeded! Now NaoMI can switch between two songs, recite their lyrics and change its position. A human can clap to the lyrics of the so-called clap songs Miss Mary Mack and If you are happy and with specific touches make the robot move. In the end, after a few technical difficulties at the outset, both the little robot and Patricia learned a thing or two...

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Lyon – France

AI, robotics and creativity – GAIA in Lyon Gaia with Helen Watty and Mareike Zyzik in Lyon | © Goethe-Institut In May 2021 a group of students from INSA Lyon engaged with the robotic lady GAIA.

Their goal was to further develop the creative abilities of the little NAO 6 robotic lady, and in particular to explore the relationship of humans to technology and its place in social life, where robots, drones, 3D printers and artificial intelligence are increasingly being used.

Digital technology - and also its sustainable development - are at the heart of education at INSA. This project is all the more original because the introduction to robot programming and artificial intelligence (AI) was offered as part of a German language course (even though inter-disciplinarity is one of the core strengths) of the INSA's Humanities Centre.

Since strictly speaking NAO robots do not fall into the category of AI, this was mainly a practical opportunity that brought together different skills and disciplines to test GAIA's creative possibilities.

Participants were able to explore programming while reflecting on the problems and challenges of human-machine coexistence.

Trans-disciplinary artist Rocio Berenguer and Christian Wolf, lecturer in computer science and specialist in AI at INSA Lyon, accompanied and supported them in this process.
  • AI, robotics and creativity – GAIA in Lyon © Goethe-Institut
    AI, robotics and creativity – GAIA in Lyon
  • AI, robotics and creativity – GAIA in Lyon © Goethe-Institut
    AI, robotics and creativity – GAIA in Lyon
The programme also included a dance workshop with dancer and choreographer Maïssa Barouche on the theme of popping - dancing like a robot.

For more information about GAIA's stay in Lyon, please visit the homepage of the Goethe-Institut in Lyon here.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Milan - Italy

Der Roboter GAIA mit den Instructors Zoe Romano und Giorgio Dimitri (Associazione KIN) Der Roboter GAIA mit den Instructors Zoe Romano und Giorgio Dimitri (Associazione KIN) | Photo: Associazione KIN © Goethe-Institut Italien The collective KINlab is based in Milan's high-tension San Siro district, which is home to both social housing and high-end residences. The laboratory's windows open out onto the street. Here, GAIA was to engage in a dialogue with a variety of passers-by. Philosopher and technology expert Zoe Romano and developer Giorgio Dimitri – both members of KINlab – wanted to find out how GAIA would draw attention to herself, interact with passers-by and "persuade" them to linger. How, they asked themselves, could a culturally competent robot be developed that could communicate with both a 25-year-old Italian man and an 80-year-old Japanese woman? For people to feel comfortable in the presence of a robot, it must be perceived as approachable and elicit empathy. For the Milan audience in the San Siro district – “Zone 7” – GAIA therefore learned a verse from a local trapper. When passers-by said goodbye to the robot woman, she responded with “No, don’t go”. Who could just turn away ...?

Click on the picture to play the video:
  GAIA in Mailand Video: Zoe Romano, KINlab | © Goethe-Institut
Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

​Munich — Germany

Die NAOs in München Neue „Mitarbeiter*innen“ der Zentrale | © Goethe-Institut, Zentrale Under the names NAO1 and NAO2, the two robots from SoftBank Robotics arrived at the Goethe-Institut headquarters in early 2020. Here they were prepped for their 18-month journey through Europe and equipped with their first skills. Janine Bressler from the RoboticLab at TH Wildau, who is accompanying and supervising the unusual residency programme for the entire time, set up the two robots. Only comparatively simple skills were intentionally programmed for this purpose, for example a short report on the project “Generation A=Algorithm”, information on German cities and two jokes. They are only meant to serve as a stimulus for engaging with the robot on site and as an invitation to enrich the robots with additional local knowledge.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Prague - Czech

Prag1 In Prague, Kateřina Kubecová and Gabriela Sejnova worked with NaoMI and her wide range of expressive possibilities. The students from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics at the Czech Technical University in Prague had already had the opportunity to work with NAO's “big brother” Pepper in 2019. In 2020, they focused their research on communication with robots in natural language, for example in the development of a game called “World Soccer”. This is a language game that allows users to test their own skills at different levels of difficulty.
Prag2 Furthermore, after her stay in the Czech capital, NaoMI was able to carry out a quiz about Europe and a storytelling game with other people. Among other things, she was able to present her skills at a large event organised by the Goethe-Institut as part of the project “Tell Me About Europe”. 

Click on the picture to play the video:
  Video still Prague © Goethe-Institut
Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Riga – Latvia

A robot that hatches chicken eggs, and in the future will also attend to the environment A robot that hatches chicken eggs, and in the future will also attend to the environment | © Goethe-Institut From May to June 2021, our robot NaoMi visited the Goethe-Institut in Riga (Latvia) and was supervised by the two artists Laima Graždanoviča and Jurģis Peters.
In an interdisciplinary exhibition entitled “Connected/Nest”, the robot actually helped hatch six hens' eggs... in the process, NaoMi learned to imitate the hens' movements and sounds and wrote texts in which he reported on his experiences.
The public could follow the incubation process via a 24/7 live-stream on the website on an Instagram page created especially for NaoMi: and, of course, during a visit to RIXC‘s gallery, where the exhibition was shown...
NaoMi at the Goethe-Institut in Riga © Goethe-Institut The two artists summarise:
“In a technically as well as conceptually difficult preparatory phase, ideas first had to be worked out and ways found for how the robot could hatch the chicken eggs with its own heat. We also wanted to convey an impression of a future world in which humanoid robots, such as NaoMi, also assist in tackling harmful changes to the natural environment. In these times, when environmental protection and sustainable lifestyles are vital strategies for survival, it seems to us a realistic vision that robots will attend to the environmental problems caused by us humans. With the help of NaoMi, we wanted to invite the audience to a discussion about the future, and the implications of the word “natural” in the context of a post-AI age.
NaoMi at the Goethe-Institut in Riga © Goethe-Institut Together with our guests, during the closing event on 19 June, we could actually see both real and virtual chickens running around the gallery in our installation, symbolically tended by NaoMi - as well as sunflowers that had already sprouted. A sense of hope and life filled the space....
NaoMi at the Goethe-Institut in Riga © Goethe-Institut Despite initial technical problems with NaoMi, by the end of our work with the humanoid robot, we were able to welcome two healthy, living chicks and engage with many important concepts and ideas on gender, robotisation and existentialism. We learned how to work with a robot, what its limitations are and what its future potential might be.”

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

​Rome – Italy

Eleonora Chiarantano mit GAIA Eleonora Chiarantano mit GAIA | Photo: Christina Hasenau © Goethe-Institut Italien In the Italian capital, GAIA first met journalist Lucia Pappalardo (and her dog Metallo) before making her way to Sapienza University. The SPQR team of the local Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering admitted the robot lady and worked with her for several weeks. Their project's central goal was to programme a robot that could successfully interact with people in chaotic environments, for instance at trade fairs or public events. In order to attract attention in such situations, the NAO must be able to perform highly engaging actions.

The team from Sapienza University decided on the abilities of playing, dancing, moving, as these encourage counterparts to join in, but above all direct physical contact between humans and robots, for instance by GAIA taking visitors by the hand to go for a stroll with them. The general idea was to use playful activities as an “intermezzo” while at the same time imparting more important information, for instance on safety regulations or commercial offers. Normally, the six-member project team trains robots to become football players. On this occasion, the four male and two female students were interested in the social interaction between humans and machines.

Click on the picture to play the video:
  © Goethe-Institut
Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Rotterdam – Netherlands

NaoMi during her second stay in Rotterdam NaoMi during her second stay in Rotterdam | © Goethe-Institut Science fiction and the question of whether a robot can express itself through body posture...NaoMi during her second stay in Rotterdam

Harmen and Zelda, two programmers from Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands, describe the time they spent with NaoMi in the spring of this year (2021):

“I am writing now with NaoMi sitting next to me. Who would have thought that a machine could transform into a little living being so easily? At least that's how it feels. Maybe it's also because we feel more connected in turbulent times.

 For a whole month, chaos and amazement followed upon each other at a swift pace, because although our research question remained the same, our method took a u-turn in the first week.
And thus, our research question: Can a robot express itself through body postures?

The beginning was very hopeful because it's remararkble to think that we can definitely communicate faster with NaoMi through body language because she has a body. What happens when you meet a little robot like that for the first time is that you make eye contact. And this despite the fact that NaoMi doesn't even see through her eyes. You constantly feel the urge to express yourself through your body language. I stroke NaoMi's head gently. Harmen pats her on the back when she has done something right. But does it work the other way round? Do we understand NaoMi better through her body language?
But how does one approach this issue? As one would expect from programmers, we immediately started abstracting the problem. What does understanding mean? For this we need two inner states. The state of the one who wants to be understood and the state of the one who needs to understand.

Understanding comes about when one can put oneself in the other's shoes. So that's the most important thing for us: to create an inner state for the robot. Once we have that, we make a connection between that inner state and NaoMi's body. Then we let this play itself out. And voila, the NaoMi's laptop was supposed to be a treasure trove of skills she had already learned on her journey through Europe. We were intensely curious.

We had no idea what the people who had met NaoMi before had experienced and whether the whole thing had ended well at all. What if NaoMi wasn't as friendly as she had appeared in broad daylight? Now, in my dark, silent room, I wondered what would happen if someone had programmed her to harm people. Was it that much fun to travel from one place to another only to be forced to perform one trick or another? Were we not aware that someone had taught her to fight? And how did I know for sure that she couldn't rebel on her own? By now I had certainly heard enough science fiction stories not to trust a robot so quickly.  I crept quietly down the stairs in the dark. It was better to put her in her box, which could only be opened from the outside with great effort. And to be quite sure that she wouldn't suddenly stand up, I put a few more pot lids on the box. That way I would at least wake up if something unusual happened.

But morning came without further ado. NaoMi doesn't seem to be a monster, and after that first night I saw no reason to distrust her any more. Only the programming work was still not progressing.

We intended to use some kind of object recognition that NaoMi could use as a basis for her dance movements. Only the way we wanted to use it was a bit different from what the engineers at Softbanks had envisaged. And then we also put in quite a research effort to understand exactly how the functions worked. It was quite a struggle when we wanted to do something different from what had been set up for us.

In the end, we decided that maybe we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but instead use the tools we had been given. Maybe we shouldn't decide NaoMi's inner state ourselves, but stay out of the robot's mind. We should get to know her from the outside and not try to change her.  Maybe we simply had to go through all that to discover that we can teach her to dance, just as people teach each other by learning to understand each other's bodies and not manipulate each other's minds”.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme

Warsaw - Poland

Warschau © Adam Burakowski The students at the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology in Warsaw focused on a possible use of the robot in German lessons. Based on the fact that NaoMI is able to address many senses, they wanted to test whether its support would make learning dry grammar rules easier and more fun. However, robots are by no means seen as a substitute for teachers here, but rather as patient and helpful teaching assistants because, for instance, by connecting to databases, they can draw on far more comprehensive knowledge.

The transmission of this knowledge, however, remains in the hands of the teacher. In addition, working with a robot can also prepare students for the future on another level, because "AI is the future", as one team member put it succinctly. In the course of their engagement with NaoMI, the students were able to teach it, among other things, to remember faces, associate them with a name and then address people by their name every time. They also programmed a quiz about EU countries, in which NaoMI asks numerous questions and at the end guesses which country the respondent thought of when answering. If a quiz of this kind is used in a foreign language class, the teacher can focus on those students who have difficulty answering and thus provide individualised learning opportunities.

Back to the Robots in Residence-Programme