We built a self-fulfilling cybernetic system, that plays with the senses and perceptions of the User and the sensors and the processes of the Machine.
The Robot is equipped with a knife that the Machine uses to s(t)imulate the test of courage - a kind of game known as "Fife Finger Fillet" . The User puts his/her hand into the Machine and starts the knife game at the push of a button. The knife starts to hit the space between the fingers, first slowly then continually getting faster. The Machine knows where to chop by receiving signals of a sensor that guides the knife to the place between the fingers.
Electric contacts are mounted on the support block of the Machine, where the hand is situated. These contacts are activated as soon as the first "nervous sweat" appears that turns the skin into a conductor. Subsequently the computer becomes disturbed by the electric current that is now transmitted via the skin.
This has two effects: on the one hand, sounds are generated by the closure of the contacts (circuit bending) that can either be interpreted as warning or act as an additional source of stress. On the other hand, they can have an effect on the position of the knife which is controlled by the computer and thereby hurt the potential perpetrator of the disturbance.
Essential to the set-up is the the feedback loop i.e. the circularity between computer, robot and User. It instantiates the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy:
The human is right by assuming that the Machine can fail. The Machine can fail because the human assumes.
This puts the courage or mettle of the User to the test. In case the User canŐt keep their trust in the Machine and start to sweat, this "embodied rationality" causes fear and sweat that pertubates the function of Machine.
The work is about the a fascinating paradox that results from this close relationship between humans and artifacts. A fascination that tries to run a risk and avoid it at the same time.
Therefore we like games that, by playing them, put their rules to the test.