A design fiction experiment around deep-space exploration

About the Project


September - December 2012


Cambridge, MA

AgNES is short for A(u)gmented Narrative Experience Simulator. It is a project I designed and built for the MIT Media Lab’s Science Fiction to Science Fabrication class (Fall 2013).

AgNES is a design fiction exercise to think about deep-space exploration and future archaeology. Inspired by such fictional technologies as Portal’s GLaDOS, The Diamond Age’s Primer, or 2001’s HAL9000, AgNES is an exploration of the technologies we might build to come with us when launching into deep space, and how they might connect to the emotions of future travelers.

But it was also a way to think about how these derelict technologies, when floating out in space, might be found, interpreted, and explained by future beings. What does the design of our technologies say about us, and how will that be interpreted in the absence of the original cultural context and design intent? How will humans interpret themselves thousands of years into the future when looking back on the technologies of the past?

AgNES started out as a code-based implementation interfacing with OS X’s text to speech synthesiser, to then evolve into its physical form — a cardboard box holding a servo mounted on a tripod, programmed using an Arduino microcontroller and computer vision to track specific colours and move its head to follow them around. Its emotional range was controlled by five “personality cores”: five USB keys on a hub which, when pulled in and out, affected the output of AgNES’ various commands to reflect its emotional transformation.

Learn More