It’s Not Robotics. It’s Art.

The stunning art installation named ‘Can’t Help Myself’, more latterly re-named ‘Couldn’t Help Myself’, was created by Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Commissioned for the Guggenheim Museum, this piece is based on robotics driven by a Kuka robot, situated in a shallow pool of blood-like water.

The Kuka was customised with a shovel uniquely designed to attempt to contain the liquid to a specific area within the installation. As the liquid strays out of the predetermined area, the shovel is deployed to retrieve the liquid, scooping it back to the allocated space.

Design Credit: Couldn’t Help Myself, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu

Contained within its own clear acrylic pen, the robot takes on a life of its own, within its installation space, creating an addictive watch for the art connoisseur, whilst appearing to take on a life of its own.

It’s containment and detachment from the surrounding (and of course highly precious) art pieces, conveys the sense that the robot whilst creating a buzz of human interest, really is in this alone. The original text from the Guggenheim Museum poses the question “…who is more vulnerable: the human who build the machine or the machine who is controlled by the human?” *

There are many connotations to this instalment, from commentary on migration and sovereignty, to political agendas and the contentious concern of giving robotics too much power and autonomy.

Another interpretation of this works was reported by Facebook account, ‘The Other 98%’** who observed that the robot was originally given the skill to do a happy dance when humans were visiting, as it was easily able to contain the ‘blood’.  However, over the years, as the machine grew tired, it was less efficient at retaining the fluid and as shown in the video we have linked to here, looks tired and worn and is struggling to keep up. Part of ‘The Other 98%’s’ commentary noted that “…the endless chase for ‘more’ isn’t necessary in finding your own inner happiness. Also to spend more time with friends and family, to dance more often, to laugh more with those who are close, to explore this plane of existence to its full extent and to make as many memories as possible while you are still able.”

These are the critical values of our time.

Fascinatingly, the installation came to a halt in 2019 – the robot was programmed to die off eventually, creating an interesting empathy with our own immortal existence. Deep huh?!

Gif Credit: via Laughing Squid

In many ways, this also reflects the nature of your product design journey. It’s critical in this venture to understand that your project will never truly be complete if it is to become a success and live on. Your first iteration, particularly if successful at market, is always going to be your learning curve.

The beauty of your original creation is that you now have something to review. You can now speak to your customers and understand if their user journey met their expectations, or indeed yours, as the product creator.

Imagine if our Kuka art installation were asked by its creators, “How can we make this experience better for you?”, during the journey?  OK, perhaps the journey was always going to end at some point. But what if the journey could have been prolonged by the upgrading to newer functionality, add-ons and suchlike.

For more on the topic of managing obsolescence, head on over to our previous blog ‘Preventing Obsolescence & Staying Relevant In Your Market.’ Here you will find some more ideas on how to reach out to your audience and how to utilise the information you can collect from them.

For your further interpretations of the ‘Couldn’t Help Myself’ art installation, we’d love to hear from you!

Alternatively, if you are budget ready and want to get your product design journey underway, please drop us a line at You can see a clip of the piece in action here.

*Sun Yuan and Peng Yu: Can’t Help Myself – YouTube

**The Other 98% | Facebook

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