The Chalkboard Robot for The Interval

Viktor – 5000 Years of Chairs, by Jürg Lehni

One of the features we’ve included in our design for The Interval at Long Now from the very beginning has been a chalkboard robot. To be located next to the presenter screen, we imagined it could be used live in presentations, write Long Bets challenged at the bar, or write live messages and menu items. We had thought that we would be developing this robot ourselves, until we were introduced to the work of Swiss artist Jürg Lehni. With support by Swissnex, Jürg recently visited San Francisco to participate in shows with SOMArts and the SFMOMA with his very own chalk drawing machine called Viktor (shown in the video above). We contacted Jürg while he was in town, and as chance would have it, he was just then including references to Stewart Brand, the Well, and the Whole Earth Catalog into the live drawing event he would be participating in that evening (click on the image below to see what it drew that night).


We invited Jürg to Long Now the next week, and discussed how we might work together. We are now pleased to announce that we have commissioned Jürg and his team in Switzerland to build a custom version of his chalkboard robot for our space, as well as the software to interface with it. We will also be working with Jürg to develop content for the robot and figure out how to make it a platform for use by visiting speakers and artists.


The design is extremely elegant and robust, using an unconventional system of pulleys that is driven by high-quality Maxon Swiss servo motors to triangulate the drawing tool. The motors are coordinated by an open-source controller developed by Jürg himself. We will be bringing Jürg back to San Francisco for installation and commissioning of the robot this spring. All we need now is your help to finish fundraising for the space, so we can make this happen.

We are in the home stretch. Every donation counts! Please donate to help us raise the last $100,000 and create an amazing place for us all.


You can see more about artist Jürg Lehni and his amazing robots at his site here.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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