A popularity contest in the robotic petting zoo

In this interactive public art performance, a small group of iRobot Rooma vacuuming cleaning robots compete in a popularity contest. All of the robots have unique characters specifically developed for this project in collaboration with local community actors. Just like in human life these robots have distinct characters. Some of them are cheerful, others grumpy and another will apologize constantly when bumping into obstacles.

Visitors of the petting zoo can interact with these robots. By feeding their favourite robot with our special robot food, they let us know which one of our petting zoo inhabitants they like best. During the day, the bins of the robots are emptied out in a display, demonstrating which robot has been fed the most, thus is the most popular, and which robot has collected the least food and is the least popular. By feeding the robots, following their lives and personalities, and rooting for them to win the contest, visitors can interact with the petting zoo robots and shape who wins the popularity contest, and thus reveal more about the social relationships humans might forge with artificial agents.

This project is a collaboration between Merel Bekking, a designer and artist, and Emily Cross and me from the University of Glasgow’s Social Brain in Action lab. During her artist-in-residency in the SoBA lab, Merel worked together with us, programmer Bishakha Chaudhury, and other members of the Social Robots project to create the robotic petting zoo. Visit the website for more information.

This project has been made possible by the financial support of ESRC Impact Acceleration Award Creative-Practitioner in Residence programme and the School of Psychology, Glasgow.

Gyda chefnogaeth Cyfrif Cyflymu Effaith yr ESRC Prifysgol Bangor.