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23 November 2023

Wonderful interactive creatures come to the Strand this January

Approach, touch and interact with giant soft robots in a free, outdoor experience like no other, inspired by a collaboration with King's robotics research

Air Giants Unfurl (c) Malachy Luckie
Unfurl by Air Giants. Photo by Malachy Luckie.


A spectacular, promenade experience featuring a series of huge interactive creatures will take over the Strand Aldwych pedestrianised area in central London from 17 – 20 January 2024.

The Glowbot Garden is an opportunity for people to meet a host of inflatable, pneumatically controlled creatures, many of which are taller than double-decker buses, in the largest presentation to date from creative soft robotics studio Air Giants. The different robots respond with unique motion, light and sound, making no two interactions the same.

A collaboration on the Strand

Highlights in the garden, which will take over the pedestrianised area adjacent to the King’s Strand Campus and surrounding St Mary le Strand Church, will include Luma - the 9 metre-long, flexing, contorting snail and Unfurl – a dreamscape of 17 plants including giant interactive vines, arches and ferns. The largest of the robots tower over 5 meters high.

The Glowbot Garden is being brought to the Strand in January as a result of a collaboration between King’s Culture, Estates and Facilities and the Department for Engineering. The event is being generously supported by The Northbank BID, with additional advice and expertise from Westminster City Council. It is as part of a programme of educational and creative commissions activity in the Strand Aldwych area intended to connect the public and local communities with life-long learning, research, art and performance.

Luma by Air Giants. Photo by Paul Blakemore.
Luma by Air Giants. Photo by Paul Blakemore.


In the Glowbot Garden, nature, art and technology combine across the Strand, utilising the new, award-winning central-London space which was pedestrianised in late 2022. The greenery of the area will complement the monumental scale of the robots, in this light-up, interactive celebration.

Unfurl by Air Giants.
Unfurl by Air Giants.


Inspired by a residency at King's 

Air Giants, acclaimed for being the first company in the world making interactive soft robotics at scale, were in residence at King’s College London in 2022 with the Department of Engineering, supported by King’s Culture. Air Giants collaborated with King’s soft robotics researchers and students to explore how we might develop the next generation of robots that learn by interacting with humans.

The residency, rooted in research led by Dr Oya Celiktutan, Head of the Social AI & Robotics Lab within the Department of Engineering, uses the theory of Proxemics - the study of how humans use space as a form of non-verbal communication - to explore how motion, distance and space might facilitate effective communication between humans and robots.

Sprout with Dr Oya Celiktutan and students in the Robotics Lab at King's. Photo by George Torode.
Sprout with Dr Oya Celiktutan and students in the Robotics Lab at King's. Photo by George Torode.


Following the residency, a new robot called Sprout, designed collaboratively between King’s students and Air Giants was included in the exhibition AI: Who's Looking After Me? at Science Gallery London, King’s flagship public gallery space, which runs until 20 January.

The collaboration with Air Giants supports King’s ambitions to understand how we might learn to live well with new and emerging technologies through radical interdisciplinary research. Led by the Digital Futures Institute at King’s, the work seeks to find solutions to some of the most pressing technological problems of the current age, across themes such as Responsible AI, Technology and Health and Digital Law.

Bringing Air Giants to Strand Aldwych is a really pivotal moment for the King’s programme out on the new pedestrianised space. To be able to work at such scale, with a project that’s rooted in a collaboration with King’s Soft Robotics Lab, is really significant in terms of how we can start to bring the university out into a public space, and engage a wide cross section of the public with King’s extraordinary research. The Air Giants are huge, spectacular, interactive and emotionally engaging. Their appearance is underpinned by a great deal of planning and partnership working across the university, and with our colleagues at The Northbank BID. Big ideas with big outcomes, and a great deal of fun at the same time.

Alison Duthie, Director of Programming, King's Culture



The Glowbot Garden

Outdoor, free display

Date: 17 – 20 January 2024

Time: 12noon – 8pm daily

Location: Pedestrianised area adjacent to King’s College London Strand Campus, Strand, WC2R 1ES

This experience will be subject to weather. Visitors are advised to check @CulturalKings on the day for confirmation.

In this story

Oya Celiktutan

Senior Lecturer in Engineering (Robotics)

Alison Duthie

Director, Programming