Meet The Robot That Does Almost Nothing – Intentionally

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At home, there is something that needs to be done every day such as cleaning as well as vacuuming the floors. These tasks can be tiresome but thanks to new technology development, robots can make your life easy by performing various chores.

There are different types of robots including sophisticated vacuums like the N79 that can perform various tasks without any supervision. However, there is also a simple robot that does almost nothing, but it has a purpose. It is the greeting machine that belongs to the category of social robots.

Meet The Greeting Robot

Generally, robots have a purpose, and social robots tend to focus specifically on the aspect of functionality. Many factors contribute to the design of robots mainly their function. When people see a robot, they tend to develop an interest in understanding if it can do certain things better.  In other words, we want to know if the robot is necessary in the first place.

The Greeting Machine is one such robot you may want to know its exact purpose. The device was designed to greet people with a gesture, and it does nothing else. Sounds funny but the Media Innovation Lab (miLAB) in Israel together with developers from Cornell University conceptualized it with a purpose.

Of all the things, is it necessary to have a robot to greet visitors in your home?

Robots have designs that we can recognize, and its appearance can inform us about its functionality. With the greeting machine, the question is about how the users can understand the motions they have no prior knowledge about.

People may want to know if it is possible to communicate with the abstract robot without using deep reasoning. It may also be challenging for the other users to understand the context of shapes if they represent positive greeting. Some people may even think that the greeting robot is entirely about judging them.

internal workings of the Greeting Machine

Credit: Andrey Grishko

Features Of The Greeting Machine

The greeting machine has two spheres, and the larger sphere has an arm that contains a magnet on end. The attraction can trace the entire way around the interior part of the shell of this sphere. The small shell also has a magnet that sticks to the arm within the larger area.

Moving the arm inside the sphere also means that the smaller area runs with it and it pulls it across the sphere’s surface. The motion represents the greeting machine’s capabilities. The researchers consulted with a lot of experts such as animators, psychologists, puppeteers and choreographers to develop a simple device. They also aimed to avoid gestures.

The study participants have varied reactions to the Greeting machine, and they attribute different motions and intents to this robot. Some participants feel that the Greeting Machine’s purpose is about judgment about them. Other participants think that the greeting machine is there to judge their intentions.

Most participants believed that by triggering the approach gestures, it signaled that they are welcome. They also think that this gesture is a signal that they are acceptable for social interaction. Some of the participants feel that the welcome gesture showed that the machine was excited to see them.

However, one participant differed from other participants’ views and thought that the approach gesture was aggressive. He felt that he was not acceptable for social interaction for the Greeting Machine, the gesture he meant.

Other participants said that they were happier when the Greeting Machine stared at them. To them, it was a gesture of acceptance for a conversation. The robot can also make the participant feel emotional especially when it looks away the moment they walk in. It is like it does not want to talk to you.

Significance Of The Greeting Machine

The developers of the greeting machine believe that greeting is a vital social feature. They believe that objects such as the greeting machine can improve well-being. These machines can add short but positive social encounters to people’s everyday life.

The greeting machine can also make the visitor to a place feel welcome. The first thing a visitor expects is the exchange of greetings for showing that he is appreciated. In other words, the greeting machine can close the gap that may exist if the owner of the place is not immediately available.

The developers think that minimal gestures can help create meaningful social interactions. Complicated gestures can be difficult to understand by different people. The other advantage of minimal gestures is that they can lead to low-complexity as well as low-cost robots.

Minimum gestures can also add to IoT devices as well as home assistants. They can add this kind of social aspect to the other existing smart objects. The essence of a greeting robot is to promote meaningful interaction where the visitors do not struggle to create meaning from the machine’s motions.

Greeting Machine’s Potential For Commercial Purposes

Currently, it is not easy to imagine the commercial applications that the Greeting Machine can be useful for. However, the study participants believe that the greeting device might be helpful to have by the entry of your home. It welcomes you especially if you live by yourself or instead of a pet that needs care.

However, the concept of Greeting Machine can also apply to a business setting. It can act as a rep, and it greets people as they enter the shop to show that they are welcome. Its aim though is to figure out how useful robots can be in terms of interacting with humans in a minimalist way.

The designers suggest that minimal gestures can help to promote the creation of meaningful social interactions. The developers also want to maintain “honest” designs that do not manipulate the consumers into thinking that it can do better than its simple design.

The design of the Greeting Machine aims to show that minimal design is also capable of enabling a profound emotional, psychological and social effect. The users can still benefit from the robot despite its simplicity.

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