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Tilllie, The Telerobotic Doll (1995-1998) and «CybeRoberta» (1970-1998)
These two telerobotic dolls share information and vie for images to project on the reflective two way mirrors each holds. They communicate in the physical space, on the internet, and with each other.
Reliance on tracking and surveillance systems has resulted in a peripheral vision that extends beyond normal human physiology. In many cases, there is a merging of human and machine capabilities yielding what some call cyborgs, beings whose virtual reach and in this case, sight, extend beyond physical location.
By looking at the world through the eyes of Tillie, the Telerobotic Doll or CybeRoberta, viewers not only become voyeurs, but they are effectively transformed into virtual "cyborgs". Viewers literally use the doll's eyes as a vehicle for their own remote and extended vision. Each doll is constructed so that her eyes are replaced by cameras. These become the «EYE CONS» that move the doll physically and telerobotically. In Tillie's case, the left eye sees in color and records in real time exactly what she sees on a tiny monitor that she has next to her at all times. Her right eye is connected to the internet and sees in a 320x200 gray scale, refreshed at a rate of 60 seconds, to accomodate internet users with slow connections. Roberta, on the other hand, has only one cyborgian eye that performs both functions, which has the effect - particularly on close examination - of making her appear even more obviously mechanized.
Viewers in the physical space can see themselves on the small monitor in Tillie or CybeRoberta's environment. They can also see the background of the spaces and the interaction between the two.
Viewers on the internet or the virtual space see what CybeRoberta and/or Tillie are looking at through their right eyes. In other words, they see through her eyes. Furthermore, viewers can turn Tillie's head 180 degrees, so that they can see what else is happening in the room. The image that appears on the internet is refreshed at a rate of 60 seconds after the capture.
Whether physically or remotely present, all viewers can rotate Tillie's head and survey the room. A mirror placed in front of Tillie allows the visitors in the real and virtual space multiple views of the room, and allows them to monitor any interaction that may occur between the two. CybeRoberta's sites are often directed towards Tillie, maintaining a covert inspection via a monitor and mirror of her own.
The dolls are controlled by a PC computer. The computer automatically dials up an internet service provider, making a connection with a predetermined web server. Video frames are continuously sent to it. The doll's computer responds to motion commands sent to it by the web server. The web server has three custom scripts. One updates the video push with new frames. Another sends motion commands to the doll's computer. A third keeps track of the current IP address and working status of the doll's computer to prevent unexpected action. No mouse, monitor or keyboard are needed. A dedicated site has been established for Tillie: (http://www.lynnhershman.com/tillie). By visiting her web site, people can visit the different locations Tillie travels to, which to date have included San Francisco, Berlin and Bielefeld, Germany. Tillie and CybeRoberta's pages are replaced or changed frequently.