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Blog posts tagged as 'robots'


One emerging trend on the internal mailing list has been a steadily growing number of threads about robots – covering both big mechanical things, and also more domestic models, and even (as in the case of Barbie below), barely-bots. Time to start gathering those up!


Gadgetwise point out the Barbie Video Girl Doll. It’s a Barbie doll, with a video camera embedded in it, so you can make movies pointed from her point of view, and a slightly immersion-breaking screen in her back. You can also transfer videos off the doll via a USB connector. And, as the Gadgetwise article point out, “because the doll can be posed, she doubles as a pretty good tripod.

It’s more than just a doll because it’s a sensing object, albeit not a very smart one. Still make it walk and you’d have something not unlike a telepresence robot for kids.

The Wall Street Journal last week covered Autom – a robotic weight-loss coach. Weight-loss programs could be just be software applications, but the vaguely anthropomorphic robot perhaps adds a layer of reassurement and engagement:

Autom also uses social cues to seem more lifelike, a big psychological difference from working with a static computer screen. She blinks her eyes, turns to look at who she’s talking to, and ends conversations by saying, “I hope we can talk again about your progress,” in a female voice.


From the end of 2008, it’s a map of the top 10 countries of the world by Robot Population Density, as part of this IEEE Spectrum article. Of course, it’s very specifically talking about industrial robots, but it’s an eye-opening set of figures nontheless.

And finally, some fictional robots – namely, this gorgeous set of illustrations for a Russian children’s book from 1979, entitled Your Name? Robot.

Friday Links: Narcisissm, the Everyday, and Pancake-Picking Robots

  • GameSetWatch reports on the cancelled American Idol arcade machine by developer Raw Thrills. A shame it’s been cancelled; it looks fantastic:

    Players stand in front of a green screen while the game films them and creates a music video background while they sing. Their performance is then emailed to them or burnt onto a DVD players can take home.

    How’s that for a piece of product design? I particularly like that it offers you a choice of DVD or emailed video file – the latter leads to an instant community of Star Studio videos on Youtube, the former to replayable experiences for families. Of course, the make-or-break is going to be the quality of the videos, and whilst they’re obviously somewhat cheesy, the output – from a cheap green-screen in a photobooth-sized cabinet isn’t half bad, when you watch the videos of the developers playing:

    Would it have sold DVDs to kids in malls and arcades across the US? We’ll never know.

  • I always enjoy Chris Dahlen’s writing, and his lateset column for Edge Online – about “user-generated, machine-mediated content – UGMMC, or ‘Ugh-Meck’” is a cracker. User-generated content is a hot topic in the games industry right now, but it’s not without its drawbacks – notably, the time and skill required to make anything in even the most basic of game editors.

    Dahlen proposes something different: using content that players are already making – on serivces like Twitter or – and working that into their games:

    “…what if you make personalisation easier? Consider a game that brings your real world into your game world, all on its own. It could grab data from the internet about the real world and the gamers that live in it, and weave it into the game experience, for an effect that is both surprising and personally meaningful. You would see yourself in a game without having to put yourself there.”

    Dahlen’s clearly only scratching the surface – it is, after all, a column rather than a design document – but he’s expounding on something good. And he ends on a note about narcissism that I find convincing in its poetry:

    “…even used sparingly, Ugh-Meck personalises an experience for even the laziest user. It shows us our reflection – however tiny, however distorted – inside our games, an experience that is guaranteed to mesmerise us.”

  • Another writer I’m a big fan of is Joe Moran, an academic at Liverpool John Moores Univeristy specialising in cultural history, and author of the marvellous Reading the Everyday, which I’ve written about on my own blog before (and spoken to many people about at length).

    Anyhow, it turns out that Moran has a blog, and has been blogging for quite a while, merging posts about things that interest him with published journalism. It’s a must-subscribe if you’re interested in the quotidian and mundane that is actually so important; recent highlights include a history of the 999 emergency phone-number, early writing on motoring, and a defence of pigeons.

  • And finally, here’s a video of a pancake-sorting robot, that can stack 400 pancakes a minute. Why? Because I like videos of robots in factories, especially when they’ve got arms as interesting as that one. Worth watching to the end to see it really hit its stride.

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