Published date 28 April 2022

Creative Growth Grant helps inflatable robotic plants to bloom

Pictured with the inflatable robo-plants are Air Giants directors Emma Powell, Robert Nixdorf and Richard Sewell, Metro Mayor Dan Norris and Air Giants producer Lucy Heard

A unique garden of robots which is the latest brainchild of Bristol-based “Air Giants” is about to set off on tour around the UK.

It’s been made possible thanks to a Creative Sector Growth Grant from the West of England Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who got a sneak peek of the exhibit as the engineers 'unfurled' the robo-plants to their full height for the first time this week.

Up until now, the nine interactive robotic plants made from fabric and pumped full of air have been developed in the Air Giants workshop but now they have been test-driven in their full glory at the Bottle Yard studios, allowing the techno-plants to tower up to five metres high.

The plants use special biomimetic technology to interact with people and each other. They also create sounds and change colours. The Metro Mayor took a walk around the garden to see how the plants would respond to him moving and talking.

As they met the wiggling, jiggling creatures, Air Giants directors Richard Sewell, Robert Nixdorff and Emma Powell explained how Air Giants is partnering with Bristol Robotics Lab to carry out brand-new research.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “It’s not every day that you get to say hello to a five-metre-high robotic plant. But it’s projects like these that just go to show how innovative and rich with creative talent the West of England really is. I’m proud that a grant from the Combined Authority I lead is helping the region’s roboticists, puppeteers and other creative people get back on their feet after the pandemic and face the future with confidence and boldness. Creativity and innovation runs through our region’s veins and I’m proud to back the talented local people working in our truly world-leading creative industries.”

Commenting on the visit, Air Giants director Emma Powell said: “This programme from the West of England Combined Authority has given us time to reflect and improve our business processes. Meeting and working with other innovative creatives to discuss the challenges of being a creative business post-pandemic has enabled us to move forward our projects, including our Unfurl installation, with confidence.”

The garden will be visiting festivals in London, Leicestershire, Norwich and the Malvern Hills throughout the summer.

Air Giants is a creative robotic studio founded in 2020 and comprising a small team of roboticists, puppeteers and software engineers. Inspired by natural movement, it creates enormous and expressive creatures and interactive spaces using cutting-edge robotic technologies. Whether with towering tortoises, pneumatics newts or the towering plants of its Unfurl installation, the team aims to bring joy and wonder to large audiences.

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