Edward Ihnatowicz

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Born February 2, 1926(1926-02-02)
Died United Kingdom

Born 1926 in Poland. Cybernetic sculptor active in the UK the late 1960's and early 1970's. He was particularly interested in creating cybernetic sculptures which reacted to the people around them.

From 1939 to 1943 he was a war refugee in Romania and Algiers. In 1943 he arrived in the UK, and 1945 to 1949 attended the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford; created bespoke furniture and interior decoration. 1962 left for Poland to search for his artistic roots, lived in an unconverted garage, experimented with life sculpture and portraiture and sculpture made of scrap cars. 1971-1986 he worked as a Research Assistant in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University College, London. Died in 1988 of a myocardial infarction (heart attack).



His first cybernetic work that moved directly and recognisably in response to what was going on around it was the Sound Activated Mobile (SAM). It had four microphones mounted in front of fiberglass parabolic reflectors (reminiscent of a flower) on top of a spine-like column of aluminium castings. Hydraulic pistons in the vertebra-like units allowed the neck to twist from side-to-side and bend forwards and backwards. An analogue circuit was used to control the hydraulics to move the robot to face the direction of the predominant sound. It was exhibited at the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition in London in 1968 and later toured Canada and the US ending at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. SAM's behaviour, that of turning to face people as they talked and tracking their movement if they continued to make a sound, together with its sensitivity to quiet but sustained noise, rather than loud shouts, encouraged many people to spend time in front if it, trying to attract its attention.

The Senster[edit]

Source: senster.com. Download (WEBM)

His most significant work was The Senster, a large hydraulically actuated robot that followed the sound and motion of the people around it, giving the impression of being alive. It was developed in 1969-71 for Philip’s technology showcase, the Evoluon, in Eindhoven, and unveiled in 1970. The Senster was probably the first robotic sculpture to be controlled by a computer. It used an array of four microphones to detect the direction of the sound around it and two Doppler radar arrays to measure the motion of people. A computer program controlled the hydraulic actuators to move the body so that the Senster was attracted by sound and movement but repelled by loud noises and violent motion. The program bears a strong resemblance to that used in behavior-based robotics developed a decade later.

The Bandit[edit]

His last cybernetic sculpture was The Bandit, which was exhibited at the Computer Arts Society exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival, UK in 1973. It was a hydraulically actuated lever controlled by a computer and had two modes: one where it was position controlled and one where it was force controlled. When a visitor first held onto the lever, it was force controlled, with a demand value of zero. The person could thus move the arm as he/she pleased. The computer system recorded the series of motions, then switched to position control mode, where it played the series of positions back to the person. The way the person reacted to the motion of the arm was statistically analysed and the computer program printed out its classification of the gender and temperament of the person.



  • Joanna Walewska, Portret artysty jako inżyniera. Twórczość Edwarda Ihnatowicza, Toruń: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, 2015, 242 pp. TOC & Introduction. (Polish)