My Robot Companion
A social robot inviting visitors to react to the idea of having robots as companions, exploring personal relativities and new identities.
Artists Anna Dumitriu and Alex May are currently collaborating with Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn and Dr Michael L Walters at The University of Hertfordshire to investigate their research into social robotics and public reactions to the idea of building robots as companions for humans. The project asks what kinds of robot companions do we, as a society, want?
Uses for robot companions can vary; forms currently in development worldwide include robot carers for older people, robot nannies to watch over children, sexual companions, educational robots and therapeutic robots for children with autism. It is important to bear in mind that the word ‘robot’ derives from the Slavic word ‘robota’ meaning forced labour.
Research shows that often people find humanoid robots appealing as companions and that the robot’s ‘head’, though technically irrelevant (sensors can be placed anywhere on a robot), acts as a focal point for users to communicate with their robot companions. The robot head shown here might be considered the ultimate inpersonal robotics. It can take on the appearance of user sand perhaps provide a potentially comforting sense of recognition and familiarity. The “Familiar” head,as it is known, takes features from visitors’ faces and morphs them together with features from their friends’ and family’s faces, based on their proximity to the robot.
This can sometimes lead to a feeling of discomfort knownin robotics as “the uncanny valley” (Mori, 1970), where users feel a sense of repulsion as robots become very human like (in this case very recognisable) but stopping short of being wholly human.
Anna Dumitriu and Alex May in collaboration with Dr. Michael L. Walters and Prof. Kerstin Dautenhahn
Anna Dumitriu’s work blurs the boundaries between art and science with a strong interest in the ethical issues raised by emerging technologies. Her installations, interventions and performances use a range of digital, biological and traditional media including live bacteria, robotics, interactive media, and textiles. Her work has a strong international exhibition profile and is held in several major public collections, including the Science Museum in London. Dumitriu is known for her work as founder and director of “The Institute of Unnecessary Research”, a group of artists and scientists whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries and critiques contemporary research practice.
She is currently working on a Wellcome Trust commission entitled “The Hypersymbiont Salon”, collaborating as Visiting Research Fellow: Artist in Residence with the Adaptive Systems Research Group at The University of Hertfordshire and (Leverhulme Trust 2011) Artist in Residence on the “Modernising Medical Microbiology” Project. Her major international project “Trust me I’m an artist, towards an ethics of art/science collaboration” (in collaboration with the Waag Society in Amsterdam and The University of Leiden) investigates the novel ethical problems that arise when artists create artwork in laboratory settings.
Alex May works with light emitting technologies, computer programming, math, power tools, and physical objects as a canvas to create hybrid collisions of images and unexpected context. Developing his own software to combine 17th Century scientific theories of perspective and projective geometry with the real-time possibilities of readily available technologies such as high power graphics cards, Arduino, and Microsoft’s Kinect, Alex’s work uncovers and explores new artistic mediums that offer joyful extensions of the human experiences at best, and darkly invasive and upsetting self-reflection as its shadow. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow: Artist in Residence with the Adaptive Systems Research Group at The University of Hertfordshire.
The project is funded by Arts Council England and The University of Hertfordshire