Prosthetic Head








Software, sensors and projection system


The Prosthetic Head is an embodied conversational agent (ECA) that speaks to the person who interrogates it. It is projected 5 m in height in it’s own light-trapped space. The cuboid space becomes the “head-space” of the Prosthetic Head. A sensor system alerts the it that someone is present. The Prosthetic Head turns, opens its eyes and initiates the conversation. The interface is a keyboard and the text box beneath the 5 m high projected head confirms the user’s query. Exactly how you ask the question will determine the Prosthetic Head’s response. So there’s a translation between the keyed in text and the text-to-speech engine that coupled to the geometry and animation of the 3D model results in the real-time lip synching and spoken response. The effectiveness and seductiveness of the ECA is that it needs to be somewhat convincing in both it’s comprehension and communication with the user. The Prosthetic Head, with it’s facial behaviour and basic repetoire of expressed emotion performs with words. The Prosthetic Head then is a conversational system, that coupled to a human user is capable of some interesting, often appropriate and at times unpredictable exchanges. As its data base increases and its feedback from the real world increases the artist will no longer be able to take full responsibility for what his Head says.

Support Credits:
Original software- Karen Marcelo, Sam Trychin, Barrett Fox.

New version- Martin Luerssen, Trent Lewis with Associate Professor David Powers, Flinders University.

From Talking Heads to Thinking Head Heads: (ARC/NH&MRC Thinking Systems). Leader: Professor Denis Burnham, MARCS Labs, University of Western Sydney.

Prosthetic Head first exhibited at New Territories, Glasgow 2003


Stelarc has performed extensively in Japan, Europe and the USA with a THIRD HAND, a VIRTUAL BODY and a STOMACH SCULPTURE to explore alternate and intimate interfaces.

With F18 he constructed EXOSKELETON, a pneumatically powered 6-legged walking machine. He has completed an EXTENDED ARM, an 11 degree-of-freedom manipulator that extends his arm to primate proportions. PROSTHETIC HEAD is an embodied conversational agent that speaks to the person who interrogates it. With EXTRA EAR: 1/4 Scale, in collaboration with TC&A, small replicas of the artist’s ear were grown using living cells. BLENDER- Stelarc & Nina Sellars- is an installation of a liquid body that incorporates surgically removed biomaterial from both artists. The WALKING HEAD is an autonomous, interactive walking robot. Current projects include the EXTRA EAR: EAR ON ARM, a surgically constructed ear that will be internet enabled.

In 1997 he was appointed Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2003 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Monash University. In 2005/2006 Stelarc was awarded a two year New Media Arts Fellowship. He is presently Chair in Performance, School of Arts, Brunel University and Senior Research Fellow at the MARCS Lab at the University of Western Sydney.