The 2015 SXSW (which really should be ‘SxSW’ as it stands for South by Southwest) is offering a “robot petting zoo” (hashtag #RoboPetZoo) featuring adorable (and not so adorable) robots with names like Blabdroid, Ozobot, and Dar-1 (say it fast).
So, why a bot petting zoo? Explains South by Southwest, “The first ever SXSW Robot Petting Zoo brings out friendly ground & aerial robots for SXSW attendees to touch, operate, and even program,” adding that “robot handlers will explain how robots have done – and have potential to do – incredible work in disaster before setting kindly humans loose to interact, learn, and play. Spatially-oriented humans will get to play with robots whose functions mimic those of humans.”
But Blabdroid’s cute appearance belies some pretty sophisticated innards. And that is, in fact, by design.
As Blabdroid’s creater, Alexander Reben, explains in an NPR interview, “In a relationship with a robot, where you’re being very vulnerable, the other actor in that situation has to be as vulnerable as you. So if the robot is small, tiny, made out of cardboard, you kind of feel like you can open up to him more because he’s very familiar and you feel like you’re in control of that situation.”
What Reben is referring to by “being volunerable” is that Blabdroid was created specifically to delve into your psyche, asking probing questions, and researching and noting how humans may open up to a robot in a way they would not to a human stranger (part of the so-called ELIZA effect).
What is so cool about Ozobot is that you can program it with color. Yes, that’s right, you program Ozobot by drawing on plain old white paper, with plain old markers, and Ozobot will follow your directions.
There are also apps for Ozobot that will work on your iPad or Android tablet, or, even, your iPhone or Android phone.
Ozobot, which retails for just $49 on the Ozobot website, was designed to help children learn about programming in a fun, interactive way.
If you made it to the robot petting zoo, let us know what your favourite robot was!
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