Assessment 2 – Matthew Gardiner

Multimedia artist and programmer Matthew Gardiner is well known for his interaction with oribotics relating to his work ‘The Future Unfolds’. The term “oribot” was first coined by Gardiner in 2004 and has since entangled his love for science and art together to refine his work and practice. “Oribotics is a field of research that thrives on the aesthetic, biomechanic, and morphological connections between nature, origami, and robotics. At the highest level, Oribotics evolves towards the future of self-folding materials” (Matthew Gardiner, 2010).


The field of ‘Oribotics’ came to Gardiner through his passion for folding paper and programmatic animation, this grew as Gardiner joined the Melbourne Origami Group to create a giant origami of a dinosaur skeleton and a full-scale origami house, with furniture and light switches all using the origami technique. It was during this period in Gardiner’s life where a passion for making animations of origami and experimentation with visual programming was brought to life.

This particular work comes from the idea of the ancient Japanese art of origami and robotics, looking deeply into the geometric folds of nature in natural proteins. Gardiner’s work was heavily influenced by Biruta Kresling’s paper ‘The Geometry of Unfolding Tree Leaves’, which illustrates clarity and understanding of mechanical and biological functions of folding in nature, thus revealing a natural mechanism, through which Gardiner uses to materialise the digital. Gardiner also took inspiration from his hero Theo Jansen, who used computer models to evolve the strandbeest mechanism in his work ‘Stranbeest’, “the outcome of his program was eleven holy numbers that recur in the functional legs his mechanical beasts. Eleven perfect numbers and they formed the basis of all his subsequent works; I find that incredible to think that all his creatures derive from this initial calculation” (Gardiner)

Gardiner process for this piece was split into four main stages, inspiration, research, resources and execution. Gardiner goes on to describe each process; “Inspiration: for me is the collaborative assault on the synapses by a set of ideas and concepts that feel like as they self-organise they release positive brain chemistry (a good idea always feels good!). Research: the on-going process of finding out if someone can help you do what you want to do, or if you have to find a way do it yourself. Resources: finding people, funding (waiting for funding decisions mostly), materials, tools, and access to expensive tools that the research and inspiration requires. Execution: the systematic, patient and determined will to follow the inspiration” (Gardiner). It is through this process that Gardiner makes decisions that affect his development of the work through technical aspects relating to the interaction design, the material used as well as the type of creasing used.

Gardiner not only mixes art and science together but also integrates digital mediums throughout his work. The first was done through the implementation of a 3D printer, which created the external fabric for the origami blossoms “‘origami of nature’ takes microseconds to complete thousands of folds, and a single folding error can profoundly affect the survival of the lifeform” (Matthew Gardiner, 2010). After testing various materials, Gardiner found that creating a material from polyester and using a 3D printer to create the fabric meant it had a longer durability.

Initially, the pathway for Gardiner’s work started in 2005 with the mechanical design that followed a five-fold symmetrical arrangement with a simple lever system of opening and closing the pattern. This particular mechanism was so successful that Gardiner decided to keep it running throughout the development of this work. There were only a few changed made to the original work from 2005, which were the materials and production method used.

The original bots used folded aluminum and laser-cutting technology to score the folds onto the material creating the creases needed onto plastic paper. The plastic paper used was strong and impossible to tear, as it lacked the fiber structure, however, the laser scoring weakened its structural integrity and produced holes after three years of mimicking the same movement through its interaction.

Gardiner’s process into the materials that would be sustainable for the duration of this work as well as the constant interaction from them started with the ‘mechaniflourm quinqueplicaticum’, they “were super fragile, and had images of real flowers projected over their surfaces, as if they were dreaming of being real flowers. Their fragility meant they self-destructed over the one-week show, a fact that many found endearing, as they watched these once pristine, in a state of decay” (Gardiner). Gardiner used as a pivotal turning point for further practice and research with various types of materials, the current status of the material is a pleated polyester fabric that has executed over 1.7 million folds and is in perfect condition, from the day it was made.

The crease pattern used for Gardiner’s work was also experimented with through various types of patterns before he stumbled on the ‘waterbomb’ pattern. Each variation of the crease pattern was modified using a visual algorithm created in Adobe Illustrator, it was through this that Gardiner created the ‘waterbomb’ pattern by selecting the bottom and centre points, and scaled them by various amounts, then copied them and rotated them to the next positions on the fabric building horizontal rows. The process required modification, especially on the scale; these scale factors were test folded before the final decision was made on the creasing at a 75 percent scale factor. From the material found and the crease design established, Gardiner was able to animate and program the fabric through the structural memory of the crease design. Taking the material from lifeless pieces of fabric to intelligent materials, which knew how it should move.


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Waterbomb crease pattern

Gardiner also used digital sensors for movement and light to create a systematic pattern that would change when a person got closer or further away from the work. “Micro-interactions occur with sensors, inside each bot a proximity sensor measures objects in front of it’s “mouth”. As an object (a human hand) approaches, the oribot blossom opens, causing 1050 folds to actuate in the bot. Macro interactions occur via the network and software; each micro interaction is broadcast to every other oribot in the installation, causing the sympathetic movements of over 50,000 folds across the entire installation, creating a stunningly complex moving image” (Matthew Gardiner, 2010). The interactive details for the work were a mystery for the audience, to begin with, Gardiner realised at this point that creating a simple interaction process would benefit his piece as well as encourage more interaction with the oribots on a larger scale.



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The folds found in the motion of moving your hand closer to the oribots



Gardiner wanted to use the interaction as “food” for the oribots “that would effect the movement of the oribotic blossom and the expression of colour”, the initial intention of the interaction was to mimic the movement of watering a plant. However, the audience, to begin with, did not pick this up.

The interaction between Gardiner’s work that I experienced was easy to interpret and generated interest and engagement on my behalf to learn how to interact with the work. It was almost instinctive to place my hand in front of the work to see if anything would happen, Gardiner’s research into the interactive design found that his audience (like myself) instinctively placed their hands in front on the sensor in hopes of getting a physical reaction from the work. From this observation, Gardiner realised his intention was to reveal in a simple way the interconnectivity of the folding pattern through micro and macro interactions.


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The motion used to interact with the oribots


He goes on to state the “micro interactions occur with sensors; inside each bot a proximity sensor measures objects in front of its mouth…macro interactions occur via the network and software; causing a ripple effect…over 52,500 folds across the entire installation, creating a stunningly complex moving image” (Gardiner).

Interacting with Gardiner’s work was simplistic and easy to understand, it gave off a rhythmic feel as you moved across the work activating each sensor on the bot, which in turn activated the light sensor. The use of the colour, as well as the connectivity between the work, added another level of engagement to the piece, making the work come to life, adding the narration of growth.

Gardiner uses a constant mix and flow of different cultures and elements that are distinctive to his piece, using the traditional elements of Japanese art and well as the mix of western technology to create a cohesive installation, which encapsulates its audience into the natural flow of nature and life. It is through the interactive design that allows the piece to come together as a whole and not be left by a singular oribot, by causing a ripple effect across the whole installation when reaching a certain distance from the sensors.

This work in particular really encapsulates the elements of multisensory interaction through its interactive design and its process of becoming what it has. Gardiner has brought to light the different industries of technology and art to create a perfectly balanced installation.


Gardiner, M 2010, Oribotics [futurelab], Matthew Gardiner, viewed 27 March 2017, <;

Marlette, D N/A, The Oriboticist. Interview With Matthew Gardiner, DIGICULT, viewed 24 April 2017, <;

Wang-Iverson, P & Lang, R.J & Yim, M 2016, Origami 5: Fifth Interantonal Meeting of Origami, Science, Mathematics, and Education, CRC Press, pp, 127-136, viewed 26 April 2017, <;


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