The Belgrade Hand and Minsky Arm are two pioneering pieces of artificial intelligence (AI) and prosthetic technology. Presented here for the first time in 20 years outside of their permanent home at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Museum, these independently-invented artifacts inform and appear regularly in artist Aleksandra Domanović’s sculpture, video, and photography. Domanović’s solo exhibition, her first at a US museum, is located on floor two.
Also known as the Tentacle Arm, the Minsky Arm was created by MIT scientist Marvin Lee Minsky in 1968, with the help of fellow MIT scientist William Bennett and the U.S. Navy’s ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency). The Minsky Arm played a key role in the early development of computer-based artificial intelligence. Its execution of simple but nuanced tasks such as evenly stacking blocks was a technological breakthrough.
The Belgrade Hand, which here is attached to the Minsky Arm, was invented and built by Serbian scientist Rajko Tomović in 1963 at the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) in Belgrade. The Belgrade Hand was the first multifunctional, externally-powered prosthesis. With five, individually-articulating fingers, it allowed the user to firmly grasp and hold objects by sending electrical signals to the hand from a control panel. From 1963 onwards this technology informed other prosthetics and various areas of medicine and science.
These inventions have influenced everything from robotics and manufacturing to popular culture, entertainment, and visual art, as emphasized by Domanović.