Roboboa – Companion or Irritant?

I’ve had Roboboa on my dining room table whilst I work, I can’t read with him switched on but can surf the net etc. As a table top lamp it’s hopeless, the orange and red LED’s do not give enough light to read. However as a ‘companion’ he is beginning to show signs of being amusing and some times interesting if left in Aware mode for long periods. As the batteries very slowly run out of power Roboboa has begun to ‘fall asleep’ and ‘awake’ – much like Roy Batty whilst he is hanging from a window frame in the ‘time to die’ closing scenes of Blade Runner.

So even unaccounted for electronic ‘behaviour’ is being created which is an oddly interesting and a pleasantly surprising aspect. Just by being a battery powered machine it appears to have the ability to invoke emotions attached to personal experience or cultiural exposure to be more precise. Men (or boys), I think, in particular like Robots as a concept, we’ve been waiting a long time (it would seem) for some good ones and so far the most effective and commercially available have been US Warbots in Afghanistan and Roomba both from iRobot (see previous post on iRobot), so just a little worrying to say the least and intriguing at the same time regarding Helen Greiner’s role and obvious influence. However, now I have mentioned it the gender balance in Robotics in general would appear to be sufficiently (?) addressed by womens high profiles and leadership in the emergence of social robotics. (see Dautenhahn, Breazeal etc. interesting article here).

Anyway back to Roboboa – companion or irritant – bloody irritating – but strangely, at fleeting moments – uncanny????

If he’s an Alien as WoWee would have us ‘believe’ why is he dressed like a NASA rocket? I can already imagine Roboboa in a pair of snake skin tights at a really serious academic Social Robotics convention in Tokyo, especially if someone from OC Robotics could reprogramme it with sexy alluring moves whilst singing Disney’s Jungle Book inspired ‘Trust in Me’? – what a great ethnographic research tool? A robot to make people laugh is clearly affective and a possible ‘way in’ for Robots in domestic spaces and non-user/non-interest social and healthcare groups. Multi-purpose, non-humanoid robots with a ‘social presence’ on first impressions look somewhat fruitful for research purposes? A Roboboa equipped with the same wireless camera/mic kit from Rovio would be a useful prototype for monitoring non-mobile healthcare groups. Another aspect occurred to me which is worth mentioning and that is everyone who has seen him has an unexplainable desire to talk to it, so a facility for speech recognition and dictation may work too. Maybe a smaller version could be a combination of a desk phone, webcam, dictation, voice recognition, table top lamp, mp3, wireless router/expander, wireless HardDrive (tubular for Disc storage), Bluetooth enabled Deskbot. Zorg (see below) had one except he wasn’t a robot for some bizzare reason, but he did have a snake-like trunk. – very funny scene with a poignant message of good vs evil or capitalist robotics vs the end of the world? – which Thrift  in Electric Animals also refers to as ‘everyday ethics’ regarding the future of commercial robotic ethics and Varela’s (2000) ethical acknowledgement of ‘other intelligibilites’.

I wonder if Roboboa’s two head sections could fit onto Rovio?




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