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19 January 2024

Launch event marks the opening of Glowbot Garden

Giant soft robots takeover Strand Aldwych

Strand Aldwych at night time with colourful giant robot creatures
Giant soft robots created by Air Giants takeover Strand Aldwych. Photography credit David Tett Photography.

Wednesday 17 January saw the launch of Glowbot Garden, a spectacular experience featuring a series of interactive creatures which have taken over the Strand Aldwych pedestrianised area.

Marking the largest presentation to date from creative soft robotics studio Air Giants, Glowbot Garden has been brought to the Strand as a result of a collaboration between King’s Culture, Estates and Facilities and the Department for Engineering, generously supported by The Northbank BID, in close working with Westminster City Council. It is an opportunity for people of all ages to approach, touch and interact with giant soft robots in a free, outdoor experience like no other.

The launch event welcomed our staff, students, Strand Aldwych partners and members of the cultural sector and featured a performance from The Choir of King’s College London who performed an original piece celebrating the robots, composed by King's College student Sheena Jibowu.

Alongside the robot takeover of Strand Aldywch for Glowbot Garden, there is a range of exciting public events, workshops and activities aimed at encouraging wider public engagement in robotics, as well as celebrating the breadth of robotic research taking place at King’s. This includes, organised school visits, hands on DIY robot building workshops, panel discussions, and an interactive robotic exhibition.

Professor Shitij Kapur, Vice-Chancellor & President of King’s College London commenting on the success of Glowbot Garden said:

When we worked with our partners to create this new pedestrianised space, it was always the ambition to enhance the space with activities that attract people beyond the university, and our usual neighbours, to do something ambitious that unites science and culture.

Professor Shitij Kapur, Vice-Chancellor & President of King’s College London

Beatrice Pembroke, Executive Director, Culture commented on the importance of Glowbot Garden in the space stating:

This is the first time we’ve programmed something of this scale in the newly pedestrianised Strand Aldwych. It's a brilliant opportunity for us to open up the university’s ideas and engage with others - we hope the robots and the surrounding programme bring some joy, wonder and connection to staff, students and our communities.

Beatrice Pembroke, Executive Director, Culture

The different robots, which are part of Glowbot Garden, respond with unique motion, light and sound, making no two interactions the same. Highlights in the garden include Luma - the 9 metre-long, flexing, contorting snail and Unfurl – a dreamscape of 17 plants including giant interactive vines, arches and ferns.

Air Giants, the creators of the robots, collaborated with King’s robotics researchers and students last year to explore how we might develop a new wave of robots that learn by interacting with humans to promote creativity and well-being. The residency, rooted in research led by Dr Oya Celiktutan, Head of the Social AI & Robotics Lab (SAIR) 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.

Ruth Duston OBE, OC. The Chief Executive of Northbank BID also promoted the power of the partnership in creating the pedestrianised Strand Aldwych space, commenting:

We’re delighted to celebrate the use of the space. It’s been a long transitional process in creating this civil space we’re all sharing now, and it’s a great piece of partnership working between the Northbank BID, Westminster City Council, King’s College London and a whole raft of stakeholders that sit around this part of central London.

Ruth Duston OBE, OC. The Chief Executive of Northbank BID

Glowbot Garden will be running until the 20 January. You can learn more about the garden and the events here

In this story

Oya Celiktutan

Senior Lecturer in Engineering (Robotics)

Beatrice Pembroke

Executive Director, Culture

Shitij Kapur

Vice-Chancellor & President of King's College London


Glowbot Garden

Approach, touch and interact with giant soft robots in a free, outdoor experience like no other