ASU's Emerge 2015 Has Everything: Gut Churn, Dancing Robots, and DIY Drones

Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab, is the headliner for ASU's Emerge 2015.
Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab, is the headliner for ASU's Emerge 2015.
Courtesy of ASU Emerge

Some days, it's fine to feel content with merely a modest amount of neurons firing. Whether great ideas burst forth depends on whether the requisite amount of espresso or Diet Coke is consumed.

But ASU's Center for Science and Imagination figures we're all capable of far more, even challenging us to undertake a marathon exploration of curiosity and innovation called Emerge 2015.

They've invited community members to join thought leaders, artists, roboticists, storytellers, and other folks with an imaginative bent as they converge on ASU's SkySong Innovation Center in Scottsdale on Friday, March 6, from 3 p.m. to midnight.

See also: 7 Cool Things We Saw at Canal Convergence 2015 in Scottsdale

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The theme for Emerge 2015 is the future of choices and values. Recognizing humanity's power to "harness and reshape matter, energy, and even life itself," organizers seek to unite creative and technical minds in considering what types of futures we should be making together.

Turns out caffeine alone can't create much personal or collective power. Although something featured speaker Jad Abumrad calls "gut churn" just might do the trick.

Abumrad is the creator and co-host of Radiolab, a radio show about curiosity that's broadcast on hundreds of PBS stations nationwide. The podcast gets downloaded more than 9 million times a month. Maybe this guy, also a recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, is onto something.

He got to wondering a while back about the role of negative feelings in the creative process, curious about whether feelings get in the way or actually propel us forward. Folks attending his 7 to 8 p.m. presentation will get to hear his take on "gut churn," and now it feels to make something new in the world.

You don't need tickets to attend, and all Emerge 2015 sessions are free. Online registration is requested, but you're free to just show up. About 2,500 people had done the online RSVP thing as of Wednesday, according to Joey Eschrich with ASU's Center for Science and Imagination, who says they're expecting 1,500 + people Friday evening.

Seating for Abumrad's performance is limited -- so it's first come, first served. Arrive early, Eschrich says. And know that there may be lines for certain activities at times because fire codes related to maximum room occupancy apply even to those vision-eering the future. Although there is free valet parking, peeling in just before Abumrad's performance is neither smart nor cool. But don't let that keep you from attending. You brave it for Disneyland. You can brave it for Emerge.

 

A small fictional warrior in the case of Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA.
A small fictional warrior in the case of Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA.
Courtesy of ASU Emerge

Emerge 2015 hasn't forgotten about other beloved topics, from dancing robots to DIY drones. They've lined up 10 "visitations" from the future that involve theatrical performance, improvisation, games, dance, and "hands on opportunities to design and build the future." Most happen festival style, running concurrently throughout Emerge -- except during Abumrad's performance. They'll also have four food trucks on site to help you fuel all those firing neurons.

Here's the rundown on additional sessions slotted at specific times:

Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA 6 to 7 p.m. A one-man dramatization of a short story that imagines a dystopian future in which a man uses thousands of insect-size drones to free the Internet from government control. We got a little freaked out by this one after a gnat wandered across our desk just now.

Bodies for a Global Brain 9:45 to 10:30 p.m. A set of performances that explore the intersection of wearable technology and interactive storytelling, while prompting viewers to consider the sacrifices individuals might make to become physical incarnations of the hive mind.

Future Design Studio Improv Hour 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. A chance to imagine the type of invention you'd like see in the future, then create a low fidelity prototype that will be added to an archive - and perhaps become fodder for professional improvisational actors building scenes based on imagined innovations.

 

An inside look at Toby Fraley's The Artwork Forge.
An inside look at Toby Fraley's The Artwork Forge.
Courtesy of ASU Emerge

The rest of the Emerge line-up looks like this:

Ars Robotica A rare opportunity to dance with an industrial robot while other audience members and performing artists join in - all in the name of research, of course, as roboticists look on and marvel. Bet they'll forget the disco ball.

The Artwork Forge A nifty machine that's bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a food truck takes four of your quarters, then couples what it knows of art history with streaming social media to pop out a one-of a kind work of art, leaving you to wonder about the role of artists and the mechanization of culture.

Abraxa A human "statue" dons a costume inspired by the concept of the ideal city, blending historic silhouette with futuristic ideas as she projects dozens of flickering images to create an ever changing collage of a future utopian world.

You Have Been Inventoried An example of applying systems created for commerce to tracking and sharing information on individuals - which raises questions about privacy, freedom of choice, and the nature of our relationship to our surroundings.

The Future Fairy Tales, With Legos A chance to create your own fairy tale from the future in an epic Lego build led by experts in the art and science of such things - which has us wondering what happens if we imagine a future without Legos.

The Deep Time Photo Lab An exercise in thinking a century ahead, seeing into the future, and changing what will happen beyond our own lifetimes.

The Happiness Project An exploration, by community members and sustainability researchers, into ways we can use sustainability interventions to build happier neighborhoods.

The Oracle An opportunity to ask one question about what the future looks like in 2040, as Emerge-types use Google Glass to capture both participant questions and the oracle's answers. Our money is on dry and hot, by the way.

Recently we got a sneak peek at two of the "visitations." Abraxa, created and performed by Rachel Bowditch, was part of a recent opening reception for the current crop of ASU Art Museum exhibitions.

The Artwork Forge by Toby Fraley, which was co-commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art and ASU Emerge, was one of our favorites from last week's four-day Canal Convergence along the Scottsdale Waterfront.

They're reason enough to attend Emerge 2015. Find more information on the ASU Emerge 2015 website.

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