People Knowing, 2010

In collaboration with Bora Shin and Brooklyn Brown

The experiments were in "people-knowing"-how to engage people, how to grab their attention, and to illicit interaction from individuals going about their daily lives.

We were asked to work on creating three different design interventions:
1. A Trap
2. A Scenic Route
3. A Dispenser

"Bobo the Robot" served to function as a dispenser.

ad played in Bobo's iPhone eyes

The robot involves a person wearing a cardboard box consisting of two iPhones for eyes, a doorbell nose that says "Press Here," and an additional doorbell button at the top that says "Follow." There is spycam hidden at the top that served to document the reactions as well as allow the person inside to see where she was walking.

The robot approaches people and then stands near them waiting until they press her button. Once they press it, she dispenses a small coin envelope containing a single Skittle to them through her "mouth." If someone passes by while she is walking, she will stop and then slowly rotate to watch him walk by, hoping for his attention.

She is confrontational, but very passive-aggressive since she just stands slightly too close to you and waits for you to engage her by pressing her button. She will twirl when she is being ignored for too long or when she receives a compliment or pat on the head. If someone presses the follow button, she will follow him for approximately 30 seconds and then stop.

What happens when the vending machine comes to you, and all it wants is a little attention? The robot appears to be happy from the outside. People are enthusiastic to engage with her and feel joyful when receiving the candy. The view from the inside in the spycam was a stark contrast to the footage we took from the outside. It felt lonely and sad; people were feverishly looking at her, but never making eye contact. They just pressed her button, smiled, and moved on.

We were somewhat surprised by the fact that even though there is obviously a person inside, people treated it as though it was a machine because of the cultural expectation of the robot costume. Both the contrasting views from the inside and outside, as well as the cultural expectations of machines are interesting areas to explore in the future.

Outside view & inside view