If movies have taught us anything, it's that robots and AI can be resourceful and friendly, but they can turn on us in a second. That kind of manipulation was something MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum explored in his studies. He also discovered that people are more likely to spill their guts to a robot since humans tend to anthropomorphize computer intelligence and respond to it somewhat emotionally.
Roboticist Alexander Reben and filmmaker Brent Hoff were inspired by that idea and have created something called BlabDroid. The tiny robot is voiced by a very unthreatening-sounding seven-year-old boy and zips around asking people a series of preprogrammed questions. There's a digital camera mounted on the bot to capture the interactions. "Who do you love most in the world?" and "What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone?" BlabDroid wonders aloud. This week, the little bot is at Tribeca Film Festival in New York as part of the Storyscapes program. You can visit our gallery to learn more about the interactive exhibit celebrating trends in digital media and creatives who use a Web-based, cross-platform approach to their stories.
If you want to own your own existential robot companion, check out a Kickstarter to create more BlabDroid life coaches. The future!