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Tracing Displacement

Tracing Displacement is a project that utilises a small robot that goes on 'journeys' and creates a memory tracing where it has been

produced by: Batool Dasouky


To start detecting the complex sense of displacement, I have first narrowed down displacement to its component senses: balance, direction and time.

From there I realised that they are all related in the displacement equation:

        d = v0t + (1/2)at2

Displacement can also be tracked, remembered or traced – not only mathematically – but through an analogue trace like a line or imprint.

Through giving the robot a way of seeing the world (a sensor) and a way of reacting the world (code/instructions), it can be armed with a set of personality traits and tools (in this case a pen).

For this project, the robot moves away from things that try to approach it, but it only goes back and forth, progressively drawing an angry scratch across the surface of the paper. 

I was worried that the monotonous movement will create identical drawings with every interaction, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that the surface of the paper and the order of the code create a slight misalignment between the motors; one motor is triggered before the other by a very short time difference and the resulting drawings have been pretty varied.

I would like to experiment with this robot as a playable experience for now, creating different drawings (or journeys) for every person it interacts with. In the future, I would like to add other behaviours for it to enact and create different traces, though all reactions would be based on avoiding or moving away from a stimulus. I would also like to experiment with different ways of tracing the interaction, possibly through output from a sensory or something the arduino can print.


This project references notions of social displacement and instruction-based art; taking inspiration from the art work of Robert Breer, Sol Lewitt and Hassan Sharif.

Theory reference:
Braitenberg, Valentino (1986). Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology.

Code and circuit references: