Prosthetic Head, 2003, Interactive installation

About the work

The Prosthetic Head is an embodied conversational agent (ECA) that speaks to the person who interrogates it. It is projected 5 m in height in its own light-trapped space. The cuboid space becomes the ďhead-spaceĒ of the Prosthetic Head. A sensor system alerts it that someone is present. The Prosthetic Head turns, opens its eyes and initiates the conversation. The interface is a keyboard and the text box beneath the 5 m high projected head confirms the userís query. Exactly how you ask the question will determine the Prosthetic Headís response. So thereís a translation between the keyed in text and the text-to-speech engine that coupled to the geometry and animation of the 3D model results in the real-time lip synching and spoken response. The effectiveness and seductiveness of the ECA is that it needs to be somewhat convincing in both itís comprehension and communication with the user.It is now possible to code both verbal and facial responses to the userís queries. The Prosthetic Head, with its facial behaviour and basic repertoire of expressed emotion performs with words. The Prosthetic Head then is a conversational system, that coupled to a human user is capable of some interesting, often appropriate and at times unpredictable exchanges. The Prosthetic Head can generate its own poetry and song-like sounds which are different each time it is asked. The system now is capable of head-tracking, so that the Prosthetic Head can locate you in the space and follow you around. Additional capabilities will be color detection and even face recognition which will result in more personal exchanges and remarks about the appearance of the user. And as its data base increases and its feedback from the real world increases the artist will no longer be able to take full responsibility for what his Head says.


Original software
Karen Marcelo, Sam Trychin, Barrett Fox.

New version
Martin Luerssen, Trent Lewis with Associate Professor David Powers, Flinders University.

From Talking Heads to Thinking Head Heads: 
(ARC/NH&MRC Thinking Systems). Leader: Professor Denis Burnham,  MARCS Labs, University of Western Sydney.

Prosthetic Head was first exhibited at New Territories, Glasgow 2003

About the artist

Born Limassol, Cyprus 1946
Lives & works Melbourne, Sydney, and London.

Stelarc is a performance artist who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. He has made 3 films of the inside of his body. Between 1976-1988 he completed 25 body suspension performances with hooks into the skin. He has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body.He has performed with a THIRD HAND, a VIRTUAL ARM, a STOMACH SCULPTURE and EXOSKELETON, a 6-legged walking robot. His FRACTAL FLESH, PING BODY and PARASITE performances explored involuntary, remote and Internet choreography of the body with electrical stimulation of the muscles. His PROSTHETIC HEAD is an embodied conversational agent that speaks to the person who interrogates it. He is presently surgically constructing an EXTRA EAR on his arm that will be Internet enabled, making it publicly accessible to people in other places.

In 1995 Stelarc received a three year Fellowship from The Visual Arts/ Craft Board, The Australia Council and in 2004 was awarded a two year New Media Arts Fellowship. In 1997 he was appointed Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. He was Artist-In-Residence for Hamburg City in 1998. In 2000 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Laws by Monash University. He has completed Visiting Artist positions in Art and Technology, at the Faculty of Art and Design at Ohio State University in Columbus in 2002, 2003 & 2004. He has been Principal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit and a Visiting Professor at The Nottingham Trent University, UK. He has recently been appointed as Chair in Performance, School of Arts, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK.He is also Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Artist at the MARCS Lab at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.