Alex Zivanovic's Homepage

If you're looking for my brother, Stevan Zivanovic, who runs a software consultancy called Probatur, go to his company website.

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My full name is Aleksandar Zivanovic, but most people call me Alex.

I'm a Londoner, born in 1970 and have lived all my life in the great city (bar a few years at university). My name originates from Serbia, which my parents left over 50 years ago. My father, Predrag, is a retired design engineer and my mother, Mirjana, is a retired mathematics schoolteacher. She still works as a tutor, giving lessons to GCSE standard in the West London area. If you would like to contact either of them, please email me. I have a brother, Stevan, who lives in Cambridge and runs an IT company called Probatur.

I went to school at St. Saviour Infant School, then Christ Church C. of E. Juniour School, both in Ealing, and then to Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith. When I finished school, I worked for a year at Texaco, before going to the University of Kent at Canterbury (now called the University of Kent). I gained an Upper Second Class (Hons.) Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering (Informatics) and a Masters degree by research in Electronic Engineering. My master's thesis was on the development of a six-legged walking robot using a transputer to implement a parallel processing version of the 'Subsumption Architecture'.

After that, I worked for a year and a bit at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington before joining the Mechatronics in Medicine Laboratory, part of the Mechanical Engineering Department of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (now called Imperial College London) in October 1996 and I was awarded my PhD in December 2000. My project was on the development of a haptic robot to take blood samples from the forearm. The robot was called "The Bloodbot" and it caused a great deal of media interest (there were articles published about it in New Scientist, the BBC News web page, The Telegraph, and numerous other places). BBC's "Tomorrow's World" filmed it in action and broadcast a report on it on Wednesday 7th March 2001. After my PhD, I tried developing the Bloodbot as a commercial product but it didn't pan out. In May 2002 I became a Research Associate in the same lab, working on a haptic virtual reality training system for knee arthroscopy for two years and then on MRI compatible robots for three years. I went part-time in February 2007 and finally left Imperial College at the end of June 2007.

See a video of me talking about one of my projects at the Dana Centre.

I am currently a Visiting Scholar at the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts, part of Middlesex University. I am continuing research into the work of the cybernetic sculptor, Edward Ihnatowicz, especially The Senster, a robot that reacted to the sound and movement of the people around it.

I am also a part-time Tutor on the Design Products course at the Royal College of Art, London, helping students with the implementation of their ideas.

I have also set up a consultancy, AZ Consultants, to develop mechatronics projects for medical and industrial applications, and to run science and technology education events.


I have long been interested in how people react to robots on a personal level, how they often anthropomorphise something that is obviously a machine.The Senster illustrated this perfectly. It was a cybernetic sculpture developed in 1969/70 by the late Edward Ihnatowicz. I have been researching Edward's work in my spare time and that page is a central resource.

I have been exploring some of the issues around human-robot interation with my own work. I was asked to show some hardware hacking at Hackday London (16 June 2007). I decided to look at generating emotions using sound. I bought a slide whistle, also known as a swanee whistle, and motorised it using an old inkjet printer carriage. I programmed an Arduino microcontroller that could position the slide anywhere in its range of motion. I made a pair of bellows out of flexible ducting and motorised them using a car electric window mechanism. I controlled that using a Picaxe microcontroller. By coordinating the bellows and the slide whistle I was able to make it generate pseudo-sentences. By changing some of the variables in the algorithm, it could demonstrate four emotions: neutral, depressed, angry and excited. For the viewers of British TV, it had a lot in common the with language of the Clangers (clip on YouTube). Here's a movie of it in action, thanks to Craig Smith:

When I have some spare time (not enough, unfortunately), I like to make robots that do cool things, rather than having to give them an academic justification. In October 2000, I made a remote control shark, called "Gums" ("Jaws" with no teeth), which was about 1m long. It swam in a very fish-like way. I entered it into "Technogames 2001", a televised competion to make robots do a variety of things (run, jump, climb ropes, etc.). It didn't win the heat, but it looked cool. The race was televised on BBC2 on Tuesday 6th March 2001.

I salvaged an old teaching robot called an Armdroid1. I've been collecting information about it here as a central resource for anyone wishing to get theirs working again.

Computer Arts Society and Dorkbots

I am interested in the creative application of technology. I am a member of the Computer Arts Society and a regular at the London meetings of Dorkbots ("people doing strange things with electricity"). Have a look at the websites for some interesting stuff. I've given talks about Edward Ihnatowicz's work to both organisations.

Designing and Making Stuff

When I have time, I like to design and make things. I am particularly interested in inclusive design, i.e. designing things to be used by everybody, including the disabled or elderly. Here are a couple:

I've been interested in geodesic domes for a long time after reading an article about them when I was very young. I worked out a way of building geodesic domes made of plastic plumbing pipe.


I like to take photos when I can, although I don't do so much of it now as I used to. Have a look at some of my efforts in my photo gallery. I used to be involved with the Imperial College Union Photographic Society, and in particular was the darkroom manager for a couple of years.

Painting and Sculpture

For many years, I was a member of LeoSoc, Imperial College's fine arts society, where I painted and drew, and even did a bit of sculpture. Also, I went to evening classes in art and design. In June 1998 I took the 'A' level exam (the one you normally take at 18) and got a grade B. I'm now (2007-8) taking a course in metal sculpture at the City Lit.

- Art Gallery - drawings and paintings

- Art Gallery - sculpture.

Other stuff

I used to help organise the International Astronomical Youth Camps for many years, and had a huge amount of fun taking part in them.

I am interested in Human Powered Vehicles (basically, unusual bicycles) and have a recumbent of my own. Read more about it here.

I help to run events linking Imperial College with schools, working together with Imperial's Schools' Office and a company called Exscitec.

My Curriculum Vitae (Resume)

If you want my CV, please email me.