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Rara Avis is an interactive telepresence work in which local and remote participants experienced a large aviary with 30 birds from the point of view of a telerobotic macaw....

In Rara Avis, the participant saw a very large aviary as soon as he or she walked into the room. In front of this aviary the participant saw a virtual reality headset. Inside the aviary the viewer noticed a strong contrast between the thirty flying birds (zebra finches, which were very small and mostly gray) and the large tropical macaw, which was perched and immobile. This macaw, like any other, has a long saber-shaped tail, a curved powerful bill, and brilliant plumage. Upon observing the behavior of the birds, the viewer noticed that the macaw -- the most commanding bird in the aviary -- appeared motionless. Only its head moved. This tropical bird was in fact a telerobot. Since the macaw's eyes were on the front of the head, as is the case of an owl, the telerobot was called a Macowl...

.... While wearing the headset, the viewer .... now perceived the aviary from the point of view of the Macowl and was able to observe himself or herself in this situation from the point of view of the macaw. The tropical bird's eyes are two CCD cameras. When the viewer, now a participant, moved his or her head to left and right, the head of the telerobotic Macowl moved accordingly, enabling the participant to see the whole space of the aviary from the Macowl's point of view.... Through the Net, remote participants observed the gallery space from the point of view of the telerobotic Macowl.... [and] used their microphones to trigger the vocal apparatus of the telerobotic macaw heard in the gallery. The body of telerobotic Macowl was shared in real time by local participants and Internet participants worldwide. Sounds in the space, usually a combination of human and bird voices, traveled back to remote participants on the Internet. 

Excerpted from: Eduardo Kac, "Ornitorrinco and Rara Avis: Telepresence Art on the Internet", Leonardo, Vol. 29, N. 5, 1996, pp. 389-400.

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