I made the first designs of this work in 1989, but could not begin building until 1992. The original goal of the project was to build an autonomous device which would navigate any level indoor space and locate and interact with people. Although the work is quintessentially an embodied agent, to my knowledge that terminology did not exist at the time. It was not my intention to build an artificially intelligent device, but the build a device which gave the impression of being sentient. My focus was on the robot as an actor in social space. Three years later, in February 1995, Petit Mal made its public debut.
Petit Mal is an exploratory first stage in an specialised esthetic realm: the esthetics of interaction between humans and mobile, quasi- intelligent machines. Petit Mal operates outside regular media art genres, which today include such forms as video installation and screen based interactives. Petit Mal occupies something of an esthetic or conceptual vacuum. Petit Mal addresses several issues which have specific relevance to the popular and technical understanding of robotics, but there is no popular culture of robotic art. To elaborate: If I were, for instance, a film maker, and had made a film in which certain shots alluded to shots in movies by Hitchcock, the film crowd would draw some kind of intelligence or information from the reference made. My situation is analogous, but those of you who can approach this work with an informed position vis a vis robotics are members of a vanishingly small minority.