Pinokio Robotic Desk Lamp

Posted: February 05, 2013

I'm not really sure what the point of Pinokio the robotic desk lamp is. Like, I'm not even sure he lights up or provides any practical desktop service at all. But look how cute. He's like a cautiously inquisitive little kid who quickly gains confidence after a few minutes of interaction. But then of course he starts feeling comfortable and becomes kind of a little punk. Look at the guy in the video humoring and playing games with him for the requisite amount of time adults should feel compelled to acknowledge the presence of children, and then politely trying to communicate that he's had his fill by flipping Pinokio's off switch. Instead of accepting that fun time is over and ceasing all activity, that rascal lamp keeps turning himself back on! He won't quit and go away to read a book or take a nap or do whatever it is well-behaved lamps should do at the behest of their seniors. He requires constant minding and attention. Geez, next thing you know you'll have to feed him and buy him Nikes.

Shanshan Zhou, Adam Ben-Dror, and Joss Doggett designed Pinokio the Rapscallion in the form of a "humble anglepoise desk lamp", and then infused him with equal parts robot and computer algorithm. He demonstrates an awareness of his environment--particularly people--and is capable of expressing a dynamic range of behaviors. Including the refusal to allow anyone who has turned him on to put him back to sleep. The Pinokio team has incorporated a combination of algorithms, electronic circuitry, and structural modifications to enable lamp emulation of animal traits and emotional sympathies.

While you and I may see Pinokio as a nifty toy, particularlly for practical joke endeavors (though seriously, he should retain the basic illumination functions he no longer seems to have) his engineers are more out to explore the possibility of creating an algorithm that doesn't just serve as an obedient tool, but lives. That incorporates user input to increase its cognizance of a situation, and then uses that information to independently decide how to react. Pinokio is part of the team's quest to construct a "living algorithm."

Not to be Mr. Wet Blanket, but I'm not sure I like the sound of that. Isn't this how I, Robot and The Matrix started out? From desk lamp to world domination? No, thank you. I'll stick with my algorithm-free bionic robot bopper cars.

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