Come Watch Art Robots Shoot Lasers At Each Other In Downtown LA

The Telestron involves two large robotic arms shooting light around a room and at each other. The artist who created it calls them "robotic conductors," and during the 7-minute show, you get taken on an exploration of light, robotics, ancient Greek gods, and the future.

And it's free.

More simply, the Telestron is an art installation involving robotics and lighting. It first debuted at the Day for Night AV art and music festival in Houston, an event held in an abandoned mail sorting facility.

The Telestron's new home at Row DTLA doesn't have quite as much industrial charm/chance of being haunted by ghost mailmen, but it's an opportunity to see the installation in a new environment. They've even added two new lasers to it since its creation, Katz said.

"It's playing around with lighting, and shapes, and what kind of shapes are created when light shines through them in dark spaces," VT Pro Design's Judd Katz told LAist. VT Pro produced the Telestron. "It's really a phenomenal thing to be in the presence of these huge robots, and see just the scale."

Beam me up, Telestron. (Courtesy VT Pro Design)

One of the aspects that makes seeing the Telestron in person special, according to Katz, is being able to move all around it — there's no singular viewing point.

"It's a performance between two robots," Katz said, "and they're connected by light."

There's a story behind the Telestron. It's inspired by a Greek ceremony meant to harness the forces of nature and to transform the participants, inside of a great hall known as a Telesterion, in devotion to Demeter and Perseophone. But Katz said that story doesn't really matter.

"My opinion is, it's less relevant to the way this lives now," Katz said. "I feel like when people go and experience it, they take away what they want from it."

The Telestron's robots share a beam of light. (Courtesy VT Pro Design)

It uses two Kuka 210 robots, holding large geometric shades filled with a variety of lights, which shoot and create shadows around the room. While those Kuka robots were created for manufacturing, the Telestron tries to free them from those movements to do something new and giving them a personality.

"The robots move very seamlessly," Katz said. "It's not like the standard movement that you expect to see when you're seeing a robot, doing one small gesture back and forth all the time."

VT Pro Design, the company behind the piece, is an L.A.-based creative technology company. Its Telestron team includes engineers, designers, producers, creative directors and members with a background in lighting design — a natural fit for something like this installation.

"I love going to museums, to the Broad, or LACMA, or the Hammer Museum — all these places," Katz said. "The type of installations that I go to see are usually very different from this. This is a mix of performance art, traditional installation art, and almost a light show. So it's really a great hang."

An audience gets a load of the Telestron. (Courtesy VT Pro Design)

What excites Katz about the Telestron is the way it serves as an illustration of the possibilities of both technology and art. He pointed out that the technology used in it is already starting to be dated, so there's more that's possible with even more state-of-the-art robotics. So expect more projects like the Telestron from VT Pro in the future.

"When I see different audiences go through it, they'll clap at the end. And they're just robots," Katz said. "I hope that it sparks people's imagination and gets them thinking about new possibilities for creative ideas and technologies."

Here's how to make your plans to go clap at some robots: the Telestron is in action, for free, on Wednesdays through Sundays until April 1 at Row DTLA. You can find more details here.

Watch this video for behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Telestron's development, along with more about its inspiration (warning: contains adult language):