ShyBot was conceived and presented at the inaugural Desert X biennial art festival held in the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, CA, in February of 2017. It consisted of an autonomous, self-driving, human-avoiding rover, solar powered, computer vision enabled and GPS tracker.
Highly site-specific in that California is a place now associated with advanced and innovative technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics, the Desert X festival allowed Norma Jeane to work with other technologists in San Francisco to introduce an advanced piece of technology into a situation which is completely uncomfortable.
Taking inspiration from the Mars Rover, Norma Jeane considered a version of the Rover that did more than cruise around, recording and analyzing the landscape. What if, instead of an information-gathering emotionally-neutral mission, the Rover had an emotional mission? What if the robot chose to wander the desert because it wanted to be left alone, and the desert was a place where it felt most safe? What if the robot was…shy?

Following its disappearance twenty 40 x 12 feet “wanted” billboards were posted alongside the Los Angeles – Palm Springs freeway.

At the end of Desert x a short movie titled ShyBot dedicated to the making of, and the meaning of the small mechanical creature was edited and screened in Europe and USA.

The Bot
Various mechanical and digital gears
60 x 40 x 30 cm
Photos by Lance Gerber
In collaboration with CODAME, San Francisco
Courtesy Desert X

The Movie
Realized by Norma Jeane and Andrea Giannone
Duration: 13’28”
Camera: Jordan Grey, Don Hanson, Norma Jeane
Drone operator: Jordan Gray
Editing: Andrea Giannone
Original music: Gaetano Trovato
Voices (in order of appearance): Dena Beard (curator – The Lab), Eric Hanson (interaction designer), Norma Jeane, Federico Faggin (physicist, creator of microprocessor – Synaptic Inc.), Tobias Rees (anthropologist – McGill University)
SHYBOT was produced with the support of Marsèlleria

Desert X Biennial, Palm Springs, 2017