In 1973 Hershman created Lorna, the first ever artist's interactive
videodisc. Presented in a living room setting, the viewer could interact
with Lorna by clicking the remote control to trigger different sequences
about her life. Lorna was, in some senses, a virtual counterpart to
Hershman's earlier alter ego, Roberta Breitmore, for whom she created
a quotidian existence, complete with bank accounts and diet regimens.
With Tillie, first deployed in 1995, Hershman continues her experimentation
with technology and exploration of issues of identity but with a telematic
twist. Via the Internet, participants can direct Tillie's gaze and
view images of what she is seeing. Our seeing is extended via the
network, and this vision prosthesis, in Hershman's words, makes us
cyborg-wetware with machine augmentation.
Issues of identity are further hybridized because through one eye
Tillie sees what is in the physical world, while through the other,
she captures images from the Internet, an equally real environment
for we cyborgs.
Lynn Hershman, July 2000
Reliance on tracking and surveillance techniques has resulted in
a culture that has a peripheral vision that extends beyond normal
human physiology. In many cases, there is a merging of human and
machine capabilities that create new beings, cyborgs, whose virtual
reach and, in this case, sight is extended beyond physical location.
Identity becomes intangible on the Internet and Tillie's face becomes
a mask for the multiple expressions of the self that links each
person to another.
By looking at the world through Tillie, the Telerobotic Doll's
eyes, viewers not only become voyeurs, but indeed, become virtual
cyborgs. Viewers literally use the doll's eyes as a vehicle for
their own remote and extended vision. The doll is constructed so
that her two eyes are replaced by two cameras. These become the
"eye-cons" that move the doll physically and telerobotically.
The left eye sees in color and records exactly what she sees in
real time. The right eye is connected to the Internet and sees in
a 320 x 200 gray scale, refreshed at a rate of 30 seconds, to accommodate
visitors with slow connections.
Viewers in the physical space can see themselves on the small monitor
in Tillie's environment.
Viewers on the Internet, or the virtual space see what Tillie is
looking at in black and white through her right eye. In other, words,
they see through her eyes. Furthermore, viewers can turn Tillie's
head 180 degrees, so that they can see what else is happening in
the room. The image that appears on the Internet is refreshed at
a rate of 30 seconds after the capture.
Viewers on the Internet can rotate Tillie's head and survey the
room she is in, and send images back through the Internet to the
page. A mirror placed in front of Tillie allows the visitors in
the real and virtual space, multiple views of the room.
The doll is controlled by a PC computer. The computer automatically
dials up an Internet service provider, making a connection with
a predetermined Web server. Video frames are continuously sent to
it. The doll's computer responds to motion commands sent to it by
the Web server. The Web server has three custom scripts. One updates
the video push with new frames. Another sends motion commands to
the doll's computer. A third keeps track of the current IP address
and working status of the doll's computer to prevent unexpected