P.H.I.L. : Robotic groundhog day


Groundhog day is a popular tradition in the USA. The 138-year tradition consists of a groundhog named 'Phil' that can predict the early coming of the spring in a public event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if Phil sees his own shadow and returns to his hole, winter will last 6 more weeks. If he doesn't, the inhabitants of the United States will soon enjoy warm weather.
In 2010, The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals PETA, requested the replacement of Phil for an animatronic groundhog. PETA argued that the groundhog day tradition made public display of animal cruelty.
The public opinion was shocked about PETA's petition and rejected the idea of a robotic replacement of the real groundhog.
Inspired on this controversy, I created P.H.I.L., an animatronic groundhog to replace Punxsutawney Phil. A photovore algorithm has been used to simulate the life of P.H.I.L., making him run from his own shadow.
My intent with this project is to materialize this controversy and raise the issues of simulation. In this context, the simulation of life produces suspicion in our society. Are technology advancements towards AI to be embraced or feared?
My intention with this project was to give the animatronic Phil a 'cute' look to make the simulation more accepted among viewers. However, a recent letter I received from PETA states that: “While we think your P.H.I.L. is cute and clever in how he avoids his shadow, it’s not quite what we had in mind”.

Letter to PETA
Download PHIL's code for Arduino

P.H.I.L. : An animatronic groundhog to replace Punxsutawney Phil from Snebtor on Vimeo.

Sketches

Behavior map