Outrace, the major installation at Trafalgar Square for this year's London Design Festival, was switched on last night. Designed by Reed Kram and Clemens Weisshaar, the installation consists of eight robotic arms, borrowed from the Audi production line, and each fitted with a powerful light strip. Punters are able to text a short message to a computer, and the arms then move in sync to 'draw' that message in the night sky.
Sounds ambitious, and at yesterday evening's launch, it didn't really work that well. The messages were displayed on the wraparound LED display that the robots are perched on, while the arms moved around and looked impressive but didn't really do much more. The organisers have, however, put up videos on the Outrace website, showing how the messages are displayed. If you submit a message (less than 70 characters) and it gets selected, you'll be emailed a video displaying it. Which is just as well, as you won't see it by the naked eye alone.
It's not the first ambitious messaging experiment to take place in Trafalgar Square: two years ago, the Memory Cloud brought smoke signals to London, although then as now, the concept was probably a little bit more interesting than the reality.
Outrace runs until September 23rd, so there's plenty of time for the robots to ingest the wisdom of Londoners, form an artificial consciousness, and turn on their human overlords (or, at the very least, start plucking pigeons from the sky).
Details on how to submit your own message are available on the Outrace website.