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My Robot Companion

My Robot Companion sees artists Alex May and Anna Dumitriu exploring the ethics of social robot appearance and behaviour and asking what do we want from robots in our homes and challenges our preconceptions and ethical viewpoints through boredom, fidgeting, and face touching.

Working with the University of Hertfordshire, the artists created a new robot called HARR1 (Humanoid Artistic Research Robot 1) based on a high quality mannequin with its arms and neck replaced by servo motors.  The robot is designed to be installed in art galleries for long periods of time and be a modifiable platform for experimenting with robot ethics.

The project is funded by the Arts Council England and the University of Hertfordshire.

Robot Boredom

HARR1 was exhibited at Watermans gallery in London during September and October 2013.  For the installation Alex implemented robot boredom where HARR1 would be looking around somewhat absent mindedly – much as humans do – until it sees people moving, which it will then look towards and follow across the room.  If the people stop moving, HARR1 will get bored and look away.

My New Robot Companion Boredom

Robot Touching Face

As part of the second Robot House Residency the artists wanted to further explore robot touch.  In a few days, Alex wrote a force and tactile feedback control system that used conductive thread sewn into the fingertips of a pair of soft wool gloves, and connected up to a Makey Makey board, so that when the robots hands touched both sides of a human face, the circuit is made and the robot knows to stop moving.

The face was chosen as the touching point as it is particularly sensitive and emotive.

My New Robot Companion Face Touch
Alex May during the first successful test of the face touching robot

Face Stealing Robot

My Robot Companion at Kinetica Art Fair 2012

“My Robot Companion” is an interactive video/robotic art installation by artists Alex May and Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Dr. Michael Walters and Prof. Kerstin Dautenhahn from the Adaptive Systems Research Group at Hertfordshire University.

The installation invites visitors to consider what they want from a domestic robot companion, and what should it look like.  In this instance, would a robot that looked somewhat familiar to the people around it set them more or less at ease.

Utilising CHARLY, a research robot created by the ASRG to explore human/robot interactions, and a back-projected robot head created by May and Dumitriu, we present what such a robot might be like.

The Science Gallery in Dublin commissioned the piece as part of their 2011 “HUMAN+ the future of the species” exhibition


“My Robot Companion” was awarded joint first prize for public understanding of Artificial Intelligence by the AISB (The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour)


February 2012

December 2011

April-June 2011


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