In a world infatuated with automation, Dutch designer Bob de Graaf has created two robotic lamps that illuminate while interacting with their surrounding environment.

The project, entitled Species of Illumination, sees the design of the two lamps inspired by the theories of natural evolution revealed by scientists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace.

“I am fascinated by how things in nature move and how these movements are ready by us,” said de Graaf, who has affectionately namedthe lamps Darwin and Wallace.

De Graaf collaborated with software engineer Niek Beckers to create the active  lamps which have been 3D printed and feature laser cut “skins.”

Darwin & Wallace

Darwin and Wallace

The lamps have been likened to Pixar’s animated robot Wall-E, but de Graaf was careful to allow the lamps to demonstrate their personality through their interactive function rather than their visual aesthetic.

“My goal was to create forms and movement that you would recognise as natural, but at the same time aren’t directly referring to a certain plant or animal,” he said.

Darwin, for example, features 3D printed wheels that look like large spheres that allow the lamp to navigate around its space searching for daylight to charge itself so it can light up at night.

Wallace, on the other hand, is a flexible pendant hanging charmingly from the ceiling sourcing out dark spaces to illuminate.

Both lamp designs feature an industrial aesthetic about them and engage like domestic pets, as de Graaf intended them to.

“The movement of living creatures triggers sensations, emotions and communication,” he said.

In a video created by de Graaf entitled Unidentified Moving Object, Darwin is left in a park to interact with passers by. In the video, children try to pat it, curious dogs wander around it while adults wave to it or attempt to feed it.

The video demonstrates the delight of interaction, engagement and curiosity that humans experience when connecting to a moveable “living” object.

Pinokio Robotic Lamp

Pinokio Robotic Lamp

Other designers are exploring the demand for robotic automation in domestic markets and in lighting.

Like Darwin and Wallace, which respond both to their illuminative environments and human movement,  late last year, students from Victoria University of Wellington and New Zealand created a robotic lamp called Pinokio which responds directly to people. Adam Ben-Dror took care of Pinokio’s mechanics while Shanshan Zhou developed the algorithms and Joss Doggett programmed a web camera within the face of Pinokio to detect faces and sounds.

“Customised computer code and electronic circuit design imbues Pinokio with the ability to be aware of its environment, especially people, and to expresses a dynamic range of behaviour,”  the official website for Pinokio states.

GLaDOS Robotic ARm

GLaDOS Robotic ARm

Finally, for those with access to a 3D printer, earlier this year dragonator released instructions on how to print out a GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) robotic arm celing pendant, popularised in the hit video game Portal.

These projects are catering to a market in which people are not only seeking the ease of automation, but products that are engaging, delightful and maybe even a friend, as suggested by the creators of Pinokio.

In the case of Darwin and Wallace, the duo seems a lot more friendly than a Robomaid vacuum cleaner, and quieter too, no doubt.