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


  • Intelligent Machinery Exhibition – September 9, 2019
    This exhibition and events programme critically explores robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and bio-computation through a series of installations and robotic artworks.
  • Virtual Tour of Our Friends Electric exhibition – July 17, 2017
    HARR1 and the Antisocial Swarm Robots are on show at QUAD Derby until September 10th. If you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, or if it’s a little far to travel, you can explore the Our Friends Electric exhibition virtually right now: .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container …
  • DF2016 – HARR1 and Sequence VR in Brussels – May 30, 2016
    June 21st, The Egg, Brussels, Belgium. “The Digital Festival, an initiative of Forum Europe and its partners, is designed to provide a space in the EU capital where the impact and potential of digital technologies can be both challenged and better understood. The possibilities that digital offers up are limitless and often profound. Unleashing this potential …
  • My Robot Companion at NESTA’s FutureFest – April 21, 2015
    FutureFest is Nesta’s weekend festival of radical ideas, compelling talks, and immersive experiences to inspire, excite and challenge perceptions of the future. The most recent festival took place in March 2015 in London. My Robot Companion was on show with its “familiar head”.  This video gives a taste of what occurred during the event, including a …
  • My Robot Companion on BBC 4 Tech (Arabic) – March 26, 2015 Alex May and Anna Dumitriu were interviewed for BBC Arabic’s flagship technology program 4 Tech about their ongoing collaborative art project My Robot Companion. The segment starts about 7 minutes in and lasts for about 6 minutes.
  • New Exhibitions in 2015 – January 21, 2015
    Two new exhibition dates: A new version of “Super-Organism” (above) has been commissioned by the Eden Project in Cornwall to feature in their new “Invisible You. The Human Microbiome” permanent exhibition that will be open from April 27th. The ever uncanny and ethically challenging “My Robot Companion: Familiar” (right) – last exhibited in this form at the V&A in London – will be …
  • Four Current Exhibitions – November 8, 2014
    With various exhibitions coinciding, Alex is showing work in four shows simultaneously on November 8th, 2014. “Room 40” is a new video sculpture created for the Networked Bodies event and exhibition at Watermans in London (7th-9th November) “The Institute of Unnecessary Research Meets The Egyptian Bioart Club” is on show at  House 31 in Dubai’s Al Fahidi Cultural Quarter for ISEA …
  • Upcoming events for October and November 2014 – October 24, 2014
    On October 28th Alex will be giving a talk at The Lightbox in Woking about his art practice and the challenges of creating and preserving digital art.  Book a place here. The talk coincides with the ongoing exhibition at The Lightbox that features ‘Shadows of Light‘, which will be on show until the end of October. Next week …
  • My Robot Companion on BBC World Service Click – September 17, 2014
    HARR1, Anna Dumitriu, and Alex May are featured on BBC World Service Click’s coverage of the Brighton Digital Festival. You can listen to the program here.
  • HARR1 at Fabrica for Brighton Digital Festival 2014 – September 4, 2014
    An Afternoon with HARR1: a Brighton Digital Festival conversation event took place at Fabrica  on the 3rd of September 2014. Hosted by Lorenza Ippolito, in conversation with artists Alex May and Anna Dumitriu, visitors were introduced to, and interacted with, HARR1 (Humanoid Art Research Robot 1) and held a lively discussion covering a wide range of topics including robot carers and …