For christmas my eldest daughter was given a Knex construction kit – and a few hours later Ferris was born.
Ferris is pretty simple, but inquisitive – its main function being to drive around the floor, bump in to objects, act ‘confused’, persist and eventually get out of tricky situations. Of course sometimes Ferris will get stuck, and a human’s helping hand will move Ferris on to the next adventure.
This quirky little robot is admittedly endearing, and the whole phenomenon has taken me by surprise.
Ferris is now over a month old, and is a familiar sight on our lounge room floor. It’s reached the point that my daughter calls Ferris by name, and even shows concern if we venture out and leave the little plastic robot behind.
The idea of dismantling Ferris… …well, I won’t be the one to do it.
At the same time as all this has been going on I’ve been gradually reading Don Norman’s book ‘Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things’, which has an extensive chapter on Don’s theories about how robots will interact with humans and the important jobs they will perform. He refers to the robots as ’emotional machines’, and how programming in emotional responses (such as frustration) will lead to more intelligent, intuitive and useful machines.
This got me talking with the dedicated mother of my children, who is lumped with the vast majority of the housework while I work in the “glamorous” design web design industry, “socialising all day” and doing “funky design stuff”).
We talked about robots, and how we would feel about them being in our lives. I pointed out that we already have several robots – a dishwasher and washing machine – but what she really, really wants is a robot to “fold and put away the clothes” (anyone who has kids and lets them play creatively will understand the significance of this!).
Maybe one day clothing will come embedded with some sort of RFID tag so the domestic robot knows which article of clothing belongs to who, and where it lives (e.g. folded or on a coat rack).
Then this week, a major drawback in the domestic robotics world with Sony announcing they’re dropping their Aibo, Qrio and Qualia robots, and its entire robot development team.
So maybe robots will not be mainstream in my lifetime, but maybe for my kids, Ferris is just the beginning…