Ekho Collective: Opera Beyond series

How we created our audiovisual immersive experience, where visitors interact with AI

In my previous blog post talking about our project, I examined how our Ekho Collective’s process of building our immersive installation Laila has changed during COVID-19. Now our project is almost finished, and the tickets are on sale for showings in August 2020 in Helsinki. Here, I’ve collected thoughts from members of our collective on the process of building Laila.

Laila’s boids (AI agents) swarming around visitors. Explained below!

Joonas Nissinen

Joonas Nissinen is our creative technologist with a background in computer graphics and artificial intelligence. …


EKHO COLLECTIVE: OPERA BEYOND SERIES

Examining our shifting relationship with technology in the time of corona.

In my previous blog post talking about our project, I examined society’s relationship with AI, and how that is reflected in our collective’s immersive art project Laila. In this post, I will examine how our relationship with technology has shifted with the arrival of COVID-19 — how we’ve realized it’s both an entity, and a new type of environment.

As a recap, Ekho Collective, of which I’m part, is a collective of interdisciplinary technologists, designers and artists. We are completing our current immersive art project Laila with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, to be presented in August 2020.


EKHO COLLECTIVE: OPERA BEYOND SERIES

In my previous post, I detailed how we at the Ekho Collective began our project of building an immersive opera experience for The Finnish National Opera and Ballet. In this post, I discuss what inspires the story we are concocting for our future visitors.

An excerpt from our storyboard

Hyperbolic Futures

In media, AI is often seen through two hyperboles. In imagined utopias, AI will cure cancer and save us from the climate disaster. In dystopias, AI is depicted as a superpower—usurping control and forcing humanity into underlings in a new-found society, destroying all that is humane. …


Ekho Collective: Opera Beyond series

Metaballs, chaos equations, predators and their prey. Contemporary dance, neurological time travel, memories of the future. Potatoes. What does all of this mean? To explain it all to you, we’ll need to travel a few steps back in time, into May 2019…

The people behind this work: team Ekho. Yours truly (Minja) is second from the right.

What’s this Neon Green, Cool-Looking Competition Thing?

In April 2019, a buzz from the tech field reached our team member Saara. She had heard through the grapevine that the Finnish National Opera and Ballet was breaking new ground, and planning to do something unprecedented: a new, immersive opera experience. And they were looking for people to do it with. The honour of co-operation with the…


Inside AI

A pilot study by roboticists and autism therapy providers

A year ago in Spring 2018, I conducted a pilot study of a robot teaching sign language to children with autism. This blog post reflects on the results of the study, and our team’s process of designing the robot. The entire study is available as:

Axelsson, M., Racca, M., Weir, D., Kyrki, V. (2019). A Participatory Design Process of a Robotic Tutor of Assistive Sign Language for Children with Autism. In 2019 28th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN). IEEE. Accepted.

The study is based on my master’s thesis at Aalto University, available here.

Robotics, Sign Language, and Children with Autism

To start…


Inside AI

How we built an emotive social robot to guide library customers to books

The Oodi library

Our team at Futurice designed and built a social robot to guide people to books at Helsinki’s new central library, Oodi. Opened in 2018, Oodi is the biggest of Helsinki’s 37 public libraries. It has 10,000 visitors a day, and an estimated 2 million visitors a year (compared to Finland’s 5.5 million population, that is a significant portion).

Automatic returns system


Inside AI

How we reached young audiences combining robotics with e-sports

What on Earth?

Ever heard of anything like it before? Me neither. The robot was created as part of Futurice’s project with Yle, the national broadcast company of Finland. Yle produces content for TV, radio, and the web. It has a broad reach of older audiences, but has had trouble reaching younger ones. The goal of this project was to use new technology to reach young audiences — specifically teenagers.

Yle’s content has traditionally been non-participatory: the performers perform, and the audience watches. However, younger audiences generally view content that is more participatory, such as YouTube videos or streams. We wanted to create…


Made of Metal: Philosophical Discussions between 1st Graders and a Robot

Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

1,5 years ago I operated an InMoov robot for Guerilla films’ documentary “Outouden laakso” (a reference to the uncanny valley, a concept examining the likeability of humanoid robots), or “Who Made You?”. Yes, spoiler alert, the white humanoid robot shown in the beginning and end of the documentary indeed had a human operator, although the children interacting with it didn’t know that. While the documentary framed the interactions between the robot and the children in a relatively critical light, this blog post details how I felt about the interactions viewing them through the robot’s eyes, and what I learned.

A…


This blog post is about the Finnish Arms Export Report that Futurice created in collaboration with SaferGlobe.

Arms exports is a controversial subject. Opinions are widely diverse among different groups like journalists, peace activists, arms manufacturers, politicians, you and me, and everyone has their own agenda. So imagine what it would be like to build a service sheds some light on the business of selling arms, with all these different groups and their differing agendas as you user group.

That is just what we did.

This fall, Chilicorn Fund helped SaferGlobe, a Finnish group of researchers and peace activists, increase…


This blog post is about the InMoov robot, designed as open source by sculptor Gael Langevin and built by Spice Program at Futurice . You can read more about how and why we built this robot here.

There’s nothing exciting about a digital blackjack table. All the casinos have it. Even Finland’s casinos have it. Sad.

But what if… There was a robot acting as the croupier?

Yes. You heard me right. We made a digital blackjack table. With a robot as croupier. And we brought it to Slush, to show to other people who enjoy tech magic.

Our creation

Does this…

Minja Axelsson

www.minjaaxelsson.com | PhD Student at Cambridge University (Human-Robot Interaction), Artist & Co-Founder at Ekho Collective.

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