Surprising robot design to trigger interaction

For James Auger, the notion of domesticated robots is problematic. This difficulty is manifest in the fact that arguably only one service robot — the Roomba – has ever really taken off as a consumer product. To date, the robot vacuum cleaner has sold some 6 million units, and not all of them just for cat-thrills. Numerous products at the trade fair emulated both its design and functionality and it appears that the domestic robot market is somewhat stuck for inspiration as a result. James believes that the reason for this as threefold. Firstly, there is a lack of convincing argument as to what robots are actually needed for in the home – their function is underdetermined. We have lots of nice (and not so nice) ideas about how robots can enhance our domestic lives but no one, real purpose. Secondly, form is an issue. Robots (and there was plenty of evidence of this at the fair) still look either cute or sinister, or both. This means that, as forms, they are destined to remain on the peripheries, rather than be assimilated into the home. Thirdly, our interaction with robots is limited and still feels very much the preserve of the laboratory rather than real life.

James and his team have developed a number of prototypes to attempt to solve these robotic dilemmas of form, function and interaction. One of the first in their series of ‘carniverous domestic entertainment robots’ (detailed in the video below) was the Ecobot which generates electrical energy from house flies. House flies are fed into the back of the robot and it can move around for the rest of the day using the energy from about 8 insects. Another example is the flypaper robotic clock, which uses the same ‘fuel’ but without the need for feeding, as it capture the flies itself. James and his team have continued to develop this idea of self feeding robots – based on carniverous plants – into all kinds of functional objects (or robjects as he terms them) for the home. Such as this carniverous robot lamp

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