I found a lovely thing today: bad robots.
Jordan Pearson at Vice Motherboard has been writing a late-December “Sh**iest Robots of the Year” post for three years now and I’m only just now discovering it. But better late than never, and that goes for you, too—check it out if you want to see beautiful/horrible junk in motion. Who doesn’t?
I’m only going to steal one of the robots from his post because you should check out the whole thing; there is some fun stuff in there. This is NABiRoS:
To be fair, this lab wasn’t trying to make a fancy-looking robot. NABiRoS is an experiment in horizontal bipedal walking.
But come on—it has a CARDBOARD BOX FOR A HEAD. The face is drawn on with a SHARPIE. I love it.
Watch it dance (starts about halfway in):
Pearson’s bad robots list gets at one of my favorite aspects of futurism and sci-fi: the junk tech that will coexist alongside the top shelf stuff. It’s a nuance often missing in fictional futures; we prefer to see the shiny new stuff that comes straight from the well-financed corporate lab. Movies and tv shows about synthetic humans are full of the latest and greatest: giant shiny automatons or perfect human synthetics.
But not everyone drives a Lexus. Some don’t even have a car. I think we will see something similar with robots and AI.
What’s the robot version of a 1982 Oldsmobile Delta with the front bumper missing? If you can’t afford an artificial servant made by Google or Sony, do you buy one assembled by the local repair shop, cobbled together from parts of older versions?
The same goes for biotech implants. If the new model eyes with repair warranty aren’t at your price point, do you buy the refurbished ones? These eyes have been refurbished to our highest standards and tested to ensure reliability…
People often say Star Wars isn’t true sci-fi (and they’re probably right) but this is something those films really nailed. The most wonderfully sci-fi aspect of that universe is the overwhelming menagerie of broken, outdated, and generally malfunctioning droids. Every planet is a junk heap, and it’s beautiful.
In our dazzling/sinister future of synthetic humans and perfectly engineered drones, wouldn’t you like to see a cardboard box with a drawn-on face bobbing down the street on two legs?