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Social Robotics, Scmocial Robotics: Feral Robotics and Some Other Quacking, Shaking, Bubbling (what would the opposite of feral be?) Robots
Natalie Jeremijenko, UCSD

Date: Wednesday, March 16
Time: 5:10pm - 5:55pm
Location: California Ballroom B

Jeremijenko introduces two robotic projects that experiment with the redesign of structures of participation--that is, they script machine human interaction to exploit the diverse talents, motivations, and interpretive capacities of human capital. (i.e. humans, their machines, and nonhumans and their machines).

Feral robots are roving packs of adapted open source robots that are released to investigate contaminated urban sites. Feral robots begin as domestic commercially available robotic dog toys. By working with the short lifecycle of these products, Jeremijenko exploits markets of scale and corporate distribution power of the toy companies, i.e. they are the least expensive and most widely distributed robotic platform, which facilitates the growth of an internationally distributed community interested in this project.

The behavior of the dogs is modified, or upgraded so that:
1) they can sense an environmental toxin (i.e. they get new noses)
2) they follow concentration gradients of that toxin (new brain implant)
3) they primarily display information with their movement (i.e. they get new raison d'etre)
4) they communicate to produce pack action (i.e. they get new social model, but not what you think)

The kind of information visualization achieved with the movement of the dogs is more legible to a more diverse audience. Persons who may not otherwise be able to 'read' the data (very young children and even some television journalists) have demonstrated that they understand in some detail what the dogs are doing. Like open source coding, this means that people can self assign. The pack releases create mediagenic event that draws attention to the contaminated sites. Jeremijenko proposes that this 'public experiment' may create initial conditions for community monitoring and participation in the political decisions related to the site of investigation. She suggests for these reasons that it provides a different learning experience than other robotics design exercises that embody quite different social politics. (cf First robotics, Lego Mindstorm, Sony Aibo's robosoccer, Robot Wars, and similar competitions)

OOZ robotics inverts this approach. Instead of taking domestic technology into the wild, we adapting outdoor hunting technologies and bring them into dense urban contexts. These hunting devices are redesigned to introduce an architecture of reciprocity. (Hunting technologies don't otherwise have any hint of reciprocity designed into them.) And then....well, you will have to come and find out.

In short, these projects, and potentially some others will demonstrate that we can structure the participantion of humans, subhumans, and nonhumans to make substantive contributions.

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