These adorable little robots are called BlabDroids and they were created by artist and roboticist Alex Reben for his MIT master’s thesis. They are voiced by a 7-year old boy known as Rowan and are set up to rove around finding people to interview. The interviewee simply pushes a button once they have answered a question and then the BlabDroid asks them another!
Working with filmmaker Brent Hoff, Reben let loose his flock of BlabDroids at Tribeca’s Film Festival this week as part of the festival’s transmedia Storyscapes program. 20 of Reben’s BlabDroids will travel around the festival on their motorized wheels, seeking out their subjects with heat sensors and then ask them some very personal questions!The aim of Reben’s game was to create a robot that could independently shoot and direct a documentary and also to test MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum’s “ELIZA effect.” The ELIZA effect found that people were inclined to anthropomorphize robots and engaged emotionally with artificial intelligence. Hoff and Reben are hoping that their non-threatening and awesomely cute BlabDroids will encourage people to answer these personal questions more honestly than they would during a human interview!
The BlabDroids have already been tested and completed some filmmaking at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and now they are being unleashed in New York.
As you can see by the BlabDroid film shot in Amsterdam, people really do engage with the adorable little robots and provide some startlingly honest footage. Hoff said that the most interesting discovery of the BlabDroid project so far was “how people seem so hungry to share themselves”.
Hoff said; “People are constantly being asked to like someone’s Kickstarter page or some new dumb show, but it is unheard of in human culture in 2013 for anyone to be asked their opinion on the difference between living and existing, or what’s the last nice thing they have done, sadly…So perhaps the real use of this project will be to get some robots out into the world and let people express themselves in an ongoing way.”
Footage captured by the BlabDroids at the Tribeca festival will be screened on the Sunday. Then Hoff plans to collate the footage into a documentary to be screened at various other film festivals.
Two BlabDroids have also been sent to Fox’s new production house Animation Domination HD (ADHD) in Los Angeles, to interview the people involved with that project. The footage captured by those BlabDroids will be turned into a documentary about the ADHD experiment.
Once the ADHD and the Tribeca BlabDroids projects are complete, the plan is produce consumer-ready BlabDroids so that anyone can make a documentary with them.
I’d love a BlabDroid of my very own, I think you could really have some fun with them!!
Source: Wired (Image via Bram Belloni)