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Artificial Creatures


Admission requirements

Bachelor degree (completed)


Intelligent robots are all the rage nowadays, but what about emotional robots? And creative robots? Or even useless, curious, helpless or misbehaving robots? Does researching these bots with 'unique' human or lifelike qualities make us less or more human? And why should we care?

In this course we discuss inspirational examples demonstrating that bots can be more than just smart, and argue that by studying bots like you we can learn more about who we are as humans, and speculate about our joint future.

At the end of the course you will focus on a particular human or creaturelike quality, and make this experienceable through an artificial creature that you will build yourself.

Course objectives

This course enables you to practice a form of philosophy-by-doing. Stepping away from technology, we will reflect on specific qualities that make us human, one at a time, and you will learn about various ways artists, researchers and inventors have used automatons, robots and other artificial creatures to express this particular quality.

You will then apply this methodology on a human quality and creature of your own choice. You will need to pick one quality (and one quality only), and construct a creature that maximizes the immediate experience of this quality with the minimal technical means possible. The creature should also trigger further thoughts in the audience on what makes us human, or our future with technology.

This methodology has broader use than just artificial creatures. For completeness, this is not a course to learn more about robotic technologies.

Learning objectives:
1. Explain key concepts in human robot interaction and artificial creatures such as intentionality, projection, the uncanny valley and homeostatis
2. Give examples of robots and other artificial systems discussed in class that people project human qualities such as emotions, creativity, curiosity, etc. upon
3. Be able to debate what we can learn from these examples about these qualities
4. Propose new qualities that can be studied through such an artificial lens
5. Create an artificial creature that maximizes the immediate experience of a self-selected interesting quality with the minimal technical means possible
6. Be able to reason what the value is of combining such a human-centric approach with creative technologies and vice versa


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, Seminar, Practical Project

Assessment method

The course will be assessed on the basis of the final practical project (build your own creature) plus online final project documentation (75%) and homework assignments (25%). Full attendance of lectures required to pass the course, exceptions are discretionary to the lecturer.

Reading list

No books or syllabi need to be purchased for this course. Reading materials will be provided by the instructor at the start of the course. We will also leverage the Bots Like You web site.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Contact the lecturer(s) for course specific questions, and the programme's coordinator for questions regarding admission and/or registration.


Elective, external and exchange Master students (other than Media Technology and Computer Science students) need to be admitted to the course before registration due to limited capacity. Contact the programme's coordinator to request admission; include a short description of your course interest, your understanding of the course in your own words, and state your current study programme in your correspondence.