How might robotics technologies be used in near-future scenarios? And how might we use design to critically examine these futures and explore alternatives?
Drawing from the capabilities and research themes of contemporary engineering and computer science, the Speculative Robotics project uses design to critically explore and express possible future applications, adaptations, and appropriations of robotics technology. The concepts developed project these capabilities and research themes into new contexts, from post-apocalyptic suburbia to urban farms. From this exploration comes future forms and functions for robotics, and just as significantly, critical reflections on our current social and environmental conditions, expressed through design.
Amy Cheng, Lead Designer
BuddhaBot is a speculative design project consisting of marketing materials for the BuddhaBot service. The BuddhaBot service addresses the need to escape from two of the most prevalent stressors of city life: noise and crowds. BuddhaBot acts as a hive for a distributed colony of firefly robots (which fly around the city, documenting data concerning noise and crowds) and as a central processor to analyze the data gathered by the fireflies. Places that have minimal noise pollution and little foot traffic are registered as LotusLocations. These LotusLocations are then transmitted to a localized information network called DharmaNet, which can be accessed via a WiFi-enabled device or the Internet. The BuddhaBot service thus provides users with timely information that enables them to find temporary retreats from hostile city environments.
Cinqué Hicks and Delisha Peterson, Lead Designers
Domestibeasts are modular, mobile, learning social robots that function as nomadic domiciles for human inhabitants in a post-collapse suburban landscape. Domestibeasts carry human inhabitants in herds of 20 to 30 units in search of whatever food, water and other resources the territory can provide. Domestibeasts make use of the remaining suburban infrastructure, in particular commercial signage and existing roads in order to guide the herd’s movement through space.
Thomas Barnwell, Lead Designer
The Envirodrone project is a creative rethinking and repurposing of technology currently being used in the production of military surveillance and reconnaissance droids. The project focuses on re-purposing military technologies for community based participatory sensing and community action. The project explores how technology such as this can be used in alternative environments and scenarios other than for military engagement. How can this technology be used for the democratization of information?
Laura Fries, Lead Designer
The growBot project is an exploratory, moderated conversation space between technologists, roboticists, engineers and small-scale organic farmers. The growBot project asks: What innovations might occur in the conversation space between these parties? Modern agricultural robotics are geared towards large scale industrial production – what new ideas could these conversations cultivate? This moderated discussion, scheduled for Spring and Summer 2010, is equal parts community building and exploration, cross-disciplinary education, and speculative design.
Hye Yeon Nam, Lead Designer
How we can express our love to objects of nature? The Huggable Garden is a speculative design workshop for children and adults to create kinetic, audio, and robotic interfaces from craft materials and hacked toys that allow participants to show their emotions towards plants, trees, rocks and other objects of nature. Currently, there are three prototypes for tree interfaces: a kissable interface that activates motors to make small robots come alive and amuse the tree, a huggable interface to embrace the tree and soothe it with sounds, and an interface to record voice messages to the tree that play back when the wind blows and the tree is feeling lonely.
Mall-E: Inscribing the nomad’s journey of life
Tanyoung Kim, Lead Designer
Mall-E draws the trajectory of nomads’ mobile houses and their sporadic messages on the floors or wall of Futroit Mall. Futroit Mall is no longer a place for shopping. Retail shops are gone. The emerging abandoned spaces are now ready to exhibit art work. The Mall-E system tracks the location of the nomads’ mobile houses. When a change is detected, Mall-E draws the movement with a unique pattern. The visual aesthetics of Mall-E’s drawing borrows from petroglyphs while also appropriating symbols such as brand logos and cartoon characters of the post-industrial age. The interior of the future indoor mall is inscribed with the data obtained from nomads, which depicts a history of their life. Via Mall-E, the abandoned shopping malls will function similarly to the ancient caves on which primitive men inscribed their lives.
Ethopia Hewitt, Lead Designer
The POWER booth collects the generated energy of its busy urban surroundings. Alternative energy sources are being developed each day with the end goal of producing an affordable, renewable, sustainable source. One such source of energy is the naturally generated mechanical energy created from the vibrations of the city. Using piezoelectronics, the POWER booth absorbs the mechanical energy created from footsteps, traffic, and construction. It then converts it into electricity that citizens can use to power up their electrical devices such as cell phones. As cell phones grew in popularity the phone booth died. Many cities continue to have this unused infrastructure decaying in their busiest sectors. The POWER booth is designed to be installed in these relics and bring new purpose to these booths. They not only solve the new, common problem of dead cell phones, but also educate citizens on alternative energy sources bringing your city into the 21st century.
View the POWER booth video.
Vasudhara Kantroo, Lead Designer
The Ergosum project speculates about the use of dynamic heat sensing and robotics in urban environments to generate power. The intent is to leverage zones of excessive urban heat with the right technology to use this energy in public spaces. Through several design iterations, Ergosum culminated in a scientific/design manifesto about integrating specific technologies to generate energy from urban heat. The manifesto, named ‘Ergosum: A proposal for enabling electrically self-sufficient public spaces in Atlanta’ is aimed to address energy recycling in the city in a multipronged fashion. The Phase-1 deliverable for this project, documents one such way.
Urban Brownfield Remediation Robot: Reusing an abandoned and contaminated site.
Hwajung Hong, Lead Designer
Every modern city has an amazing amount of vacant, unused land in its downtown core—hundreds of acres in most major cities. This category of urban territory is referred to as a brownfield, a piece of industrial or commercial property that is abandoned, idle, or under-used and often environmentally contaminated, especially one considered as a potential site for redevelopment. How do we reclaim the brownfield for neighborhoods in a way that is flexible and contextually appropriate to the site in question? The Urban Brownfield Remediation Robot is a speculative design proposal to use robotics to evaluate brownfields and to transform them into viable and environmentally responsible sites. Through remote sensing, each robot analyzes brownfield sites by collecting data such as Volatile Organic Components (VOCs). The data allows the robot to decide the best remediation plan for the site. The aggregated robot modules then execute possible remediation solutions, which range from building a site separation fence to creating phytoremediation machines.