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COOL JOBS: HUMAN-ROBOT INVESTIGATOR

Meet roboticist Heather Knight and explore the interactive robotic experiences she has created, which include a giant Rube Goldberg machine and a wise-cracking robot, Data, who performs a stand-up comedy routine.

Episode filmed live at the 2011 World Science Festival in New York CIty. The full Cool Jobs program from that year can be viewed online.

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Heather Knight:

Thank you so much. My name is Heather Knight. And something that’s really interesting about engineering is that you can conceive of something that has never existed before and build it. Now, back in high school, I was interested in a lot of things and I was also really interested in storytelling. And I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to become an engineer, like my dad, who I really admired, or become a writer. And I have come to sort of full circle. So after building robots for about nine years now, I’m doing robots and theater, obviously. Right?

Heather Knight:

So I started a robot theater company here in the city called Marilyn Monrobot. And I’m also conducting PhD research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. So back and forth. But before I introduced this first video, let me just tell you, who out there knows what a Rube Goldberg machine is? Anybody? Oh my God. Smart group. Awesome. Right. So for those of you that don’t know, it’s like kind of like Mouse Trap. It’s a series of reactions. So cause and effect. It’s a snowball effect. So if something falls, hit something else, there’s a spoon on the lever that knocks something else, something gets on fire. It’s all really crazy. So this video doesn’t have fire, unfortunately, but there’s lots of other excitement.

Heather Knight:

And yeah. And one last highlight. I think that what I really love about this video is it shows when you combine the talents of people that really know how to build things with people that are specialized in their talent is in connecting with people, and their viewers and their audience, you can do something that’s much bigger than any of those independent communities can create. So I think it’s important for us as individuals to be somewhat interdisciplinary, but also even if you go into technology or science, crossing fields is often where the real magic happens.

Heather Knight:

So Victoria, if you could cue the first video. How many of you seen this before? Cool. It gets better every time. So it starts small and it gets bigger. There’s two floors, a top floor and a bottom floor. There’s about 80 engineers or builders or designers that contributed. That is the iPod that really did start the song. And that’s the speaker that knocks that first ball out.

Heather Knight:

(singing)

Heather Knight:

So remember this tire. I spent a lot of time with this Lego table. That is real. The next part’s just as cool. We did kill two pianos in the making of this video. So you can see it’s organized into individual modules. The chair thing is a module. These balls falling down, that’s another module. And they’re all connected together. Mouse traps. So I was co-manager of the first floor. So this is ending my section. We had a lot of people from the jet propulsion laboratory where I used to work, hence the Mars Rover. Lots of inside jokes in this machine. You can also see lots of references to other OK Go videos, which you should check out and try to find.

Heather Knight:

So there’s one guy filming this entire thing. And if you look in that silver ball, you can just barely see the camera man, who is the unsung hero of this entire video. Look at all the other TVs behind. You can see it’s getting bigger and bigger. Now that looked fun. And that was not made. This is the part where it gets really dangerous for the camera man. It’s like bowling balls and barrels and cars. And he has a 50 pound camera.

Heather Knight:

So you should all do this in your basement or garage. Sorry, parents. But yeah. So the intersection, like I keep talking about that, that is so incredibly awesome is between art and technology, art and science. So I’m really interested in machines with character. And so this idea of social robots, I think is really because we already have computers everywhere. We probably have cell phones in our pocket, maybe addicted to the internet, or games, or even Facebook or Twitter. He has a Twitter account. It’s Robot in the Wild.

Heather Knight:

But yeah. And then we also have robots everywhere, which is something that we don’t know as much. Generally robust right now, they go to places where humans can’t. So we have robots on the moon. We have robots exploring in the deep oceans. We have robots that do a lot in agriculture and manufacturing, even processing and sending packages. But in industry, some of the most complex ideas is about human robot interaction, it’s to draw a big circle around the industrial robot, and say, “Don’t go inside that circle.”

Heather Knight:

Now I think we can do better than that. And that’s definitely not Rosie the Robot quality. And so as a social roboticist, the way that we have been doing that as a field has been a lot of collaborations with psychologists. So you kind of have to reverse engineer, some of our human social behaviors to make something that could respond to us in a natural way, that knows some of the rules of the road in the hallway. Maybe don’t barrel through that door before grandmother. That’s rude. And also, yeah, just to make people empowered. So I’ve been collaborating with comedians. And have created an act for you on this robot. So without further ado.

Data the Robot:

Can you hear me all right? The volume is good? Okay, thanks. Let’s do this. Well, take a good look. They call me Data the Robot. Gosh, I love saying that. It makes me feel like some kind of superhero, right? Well, perhaps this will sound familiar. It is an excerpt from the Merchant of Venice. Though I took slight poetic license. I am a robot. Yes, a robot. Hath not a robot video cameras to see, affectations, passions, or at least can he not be programmed to simulate these things? Are we not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases? Okay. Maybe not.

Data the Robot:

But if you prick us in our battery pack, do we not bleed our alkaline fluid? If you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you and the rest, which I admit we are not, we will resemble you in that. I would like to say it is a pleasure to be here, but despite what you just saw, I am a robot and know no emotion. Heather, how about you get working on that emotion program?

Heather Knight:

I am.

Data the Robot:

Fair enough. My programmer designs my presentations with the goal of driving innovation in social robotics, which is the integration of robot helpers into every day life. So you might as well get used to this. Right guys? Social intelligence is so complex, and many humans are not good at it. Any teenagers in the house? I rest my case. Do not feel bad. My interaction capabilities are worse than yours. Using your feedback, however, my programmer hopes that one day I will be an autonomous robotic performer like Justin Bieber. That’s what is called a tag line in comedy. One day, I might be able to choose my own tags just by searching the internet. According to my feedback data, you are a wonderful crowd, and I am really glad you are here for me. Because I want to tell you one last story. And I’m not sure if you know it. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The galaxy is living in dark times again.

Heather Knight:

Somebody figured it out.

Data the Robot:

The dark forces are back, but a knight is coming to save the galaxy. Accompanied by his faithful friend, now [inaudible 00:11:27]. They fought the enemy with bravery. Finally, the enemy was defeated. And peace settled again. Thank you.

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COOL JOBS: HUMAN-ROBOT INVESTIGATOR

Meet roboticist Heather Knight and explore the interactive robotic experiences she has created, which include a giant Rube Goldberg machine and a wise-cracking robot, Data, who performs a stand-up comedy routine.

Episode filmed live at the 2011 World Science Festival in New York CIty. The full Cool Jobs program from that year can be viewed online.

Transcription

Heather Knight:

Thank you so much. My name is Heather Knight. And something that’s really interesting about engineering is that you can conceive of something that has never existed before and build it. Now, back in high school, I was interested in a lot of things and I was also really interested in storytelling. And I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to become an engineer, like my dad, who I really admired, or become a writer. And I have come to sort of full circle. So after building robots for about nine years now, I’m doing robots and theater, obviously. Right?

Heather Knight:

So I started a robot theater company here in the city called Marilyn Monrobot. And I’m also conducting PhD research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. So back and forth. But before I introduced this first video, let me just tell you, who out there knows what a Rube Goldberg machine is? Anybody? Oh my God. Smart group. Awesome. Right. So for those of you that don’t know, it’s like kind of like Mouse Trap. It’s a series of reactions. So cause and effect. It’s a snowball effect. So if something falls, hit something else, there’s a spoon on the lever that knocks something else, something gets on fire. It’s all really crazy. So this video doesn’t have fire, unfortunately, but there’s lots of other excitement.

Heather Knight:

And yeah. And one last highlight. I think that what I really love about this video is it shows when you combine the talents of people that really know how to build things with people that are specialized in their talent is in connecting with people, and their viewers and their audience, you can do something that’s much bigger than any of those independent communities can create. So I think it’s important for us as individuals to be somewhat interdisciplinary, but also even if you go into technology or science, crossing fields is often where the real magic happens.

Heather Knight:

So Victoria, if you could cue the first video. How many of you seen this before? Cool. It gets better every time. So it starts small and it gets bigger. There’s two floors, a top floor and a bottom floor. There’s about 80 engineers or builders or designers that contributed. That is the iPod that really did start the song. And that’s the speaker that knocks that first ball out.

Heather Knight:

(singing)

Heather Knight:

So remember this tire. I spent a lot of time with this Lego table. That is real. The next part’s just as cool. We did kill two pianos in the making of this video. So you can see it’s organized into individual modules. The chair thing is a module. These balls falling down, that’s another module. And they’re all connected together. Mouse traps. So I was co-manager of the first floor. So this is ending my section. We had a lot of people from the jet propulsion laboratory where I used to work, hence the Mars Rover. Lots of inside jokes in this machine. You can also see lots of references to other OK Go videos, which you should check out and try to find.

Heather Knight:

So there’s one guy filming this entire thing. And if you look in that silver ball, you can just barely see the camera man, who is the unsung hero of this entire video. Look at all the other TVs behind. You can see it’s getting bigger and bigger. Now that looked fun. And that was not made. This is the part where it gets really dangerous for the camera man. It’s like bowling balls and barrels and cars. And he has a 50 pound camera.

Heather Knight:

So you should all do this in your basement or garage. Sorry, parents. But yeah. So the intersection, like I keep talking about that, that is so incredibly awesome is between art and technology, art and science. So I’m really interested in machines with character. And so this idea of social robots, I think is really because we already have computers everywhere. We probably have cell phones in our pocket, maybe addicted to the internet, or games, or even Facebook or Twitter. He has a Twitter account. It’s Robot in the Wild.

Heather Knight:

But yeah. And then we also have robots everywhere, which is something that we don’t know as much. Generally robust right now, they go to places where humans can’t. So we have robots on the moon. We have robots exploring in the deep oceans. We have robots that do a lot in agriculture and manufacturing, even processing and sending packages. But in industry, some of the most complex ideas is about human robot interaction, it’s to draw a big circle around the industrial robot, and say, “Don’t go inside that circle.”

Heather Knight:

Now I think we can do better than that. And that’s definitely not Rosie the Robot quality. And so as a social roboticist, the way that we have been doing that as a field has been a lot of collaborations with psychologists. So you kind of have to reverse engineer, some of our human social behaviors to make something that could respond to us in a natural way, that knows some of the rules of the road in the hallway. Maybe don’t barrel through that door before grandmother. That’s rude. And also, yeah, just to make people empowered. So I’ve been collaborating with comedians. And have created an act for you on this robot. So without further ado.

Data the Robot:

Can you hear me all right? The volume is good? Okay, thanks. Let’s do this. Well, take a good look. They call me Data the Robot. Gosh, I love saying that. It makes me feel like some kind of superhero, right? Well, perhaps this will sound familiar. It is an excerpt from the Merchant of Venice. Though I took slight poetic license. I am a robot. Yes, a robot. Hath not a robot video cameras to see, affectations, passions, or at least can he not be programmed to simulate these things? Are we not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases? Okay. Maybe not.

Data the Robot:

But if you prick us in our battery pack, do we not bleed our alkaline fluid? If you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you and the rest, which I admit we are not, we will resemble you in that. I would like to say it is a pleasure to be here, but despite what you just saw, I am a robot and know no emotion. Heather, how about you get working on that emotion program?

Heather Knight:

I am.

Data the Robot:

Fair enough. My programmer designs my presentations with the goal of driving innovation in social robotics, which is the integration of robot helpers into every day life. So you might as well get used to this. Right guys? Social intelligence is so complex, and many humans are not good at it. Any teenagers in the house? I rest my case. Do not feel bad. My interaction capabilities are worse than yours. Using your feedback, however, my programmer hopes that one day I will be an autonomous robotic performer like Justin Bieber. That’s what is called a tag line in comedy. One day, I might be able to choose my own tags just by searching the internet. According to my feedback data, you are a wonderful crowd, and I am really glad you are here for me. Because I want to tell you one last story. And I’m not sure if you know it. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The galaxy is living in dark times again.

Heather Knight:

Somebody figured it out.

Data the Robot:

The dark forces are back, but a knight is coming to save the galaxy. Accompanied by his faithful friend, now [inaudible 00:11:27]. They fought the enemy with bravery. Finally, the enemy was defeated. And peace settled again. Thank you.