TZ’IJK (in Mayan language Ch’orti’, mud or clay) is the name of the first series of mestizo robots developed in collaboration with different partners across the Americas. TZ’IJK is a spherical autonomous mobile agent “made with mud,” whose behavior is inspired by the Mayan creationist mythologies concerning the earth’s first human inhabitants.
IIn the Popol Vuh, the Mayans ascribe the creation of man with only one purpose: to serve the gods. According to the mythology, man was created as a being far inferior to the gods, considered nothing more than an imperfect automaton, subject to divine whims and fancies. After the earth and animals were created, the gods in fact made several false starts in setting humanity upon the earth. The first attempt was a man created out of mud, which soon proved unsuccessful; the mud men lacked speech, souls and intellect. They were useless, blind and clumsy automatons without understanding, insight or perceptiveness.
Likewise, the mudbots are blind, deaf, and speechless autonomous robotic agents, different from the human-like robots that populate western mythology and works of fiction in cinema, television and literature. They reclaim one of the most popular pre-Columbian mythologies of the creation of the world, challenging the imaginary of robots as a competent system of autonomy and determination, and foster the use of mud to promote a more inclusive programmatic platform for the development of smart machines.