There be robots

A+W of AW&SOME went to the secret robot house in Hertfordshire, embedded in an unsuspecting village half an hour outside London. Looking like any house on the same street, this one was full of embedded sensors and impressive machines. We got to make friends with Mr (?) Care-o-bot and Sunflower, and we got to listen to Nicolas Nova talk about Sci-fi and the history of the “robot” concept among other things and Kerstin Dautenhahn talk about the research performed in LIREC.

What I found the most interesting was the ability of the robots to migrate their personality/soul/state/knowledgebase between physical machines. Ie, when your grandpa calls you up on skype to carry on playing that game of networked chess, Sunflower (the guy with the bucket-head and the googly eyes) shuts off and an AIBO (robot dog) wakes up. I’m not sure what to make of it, I guess you have been able to do this virtually for years, by being able to switch between Mario and Luigi at will. I’m not aware of examples where the character played retains certain objects or skills, I’m not so much into video games. In any case, you, the player, would be the one retaining the knowledge of levels completed, and any clues as in which castle to find Princess Peach.

In this physical variety of shape-shifting, the researchers imagine a scenario where you can travel across the world without bringing your robot with you, but just download the personality – beeping and blinking traits and all – to your local instance which then interprets accordingly, based on available hardware. This will surely be one of the traits we consider our ‘bots to have, and not think more of it. Or? I propose an experiment, where actors wired up with microphones and earpieces can mimic this in a participatory Turing test fictional simulation. Theatre basically, but a little more involving. Maybe I’ll have more on this as I finish reading “The Most Human Human” by Brian Christopher.

Read Alex’s blogpost about the event here.

And remember;
Don’t open fridge or turn on the kettle – the robot goes crazy!

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