This project explores how through the medium of speculative design proposals we can find new ways of thinking about robots.
By viewing the robot as a product rather than a technology it becomes exposed to a whole different set of rules and expectations than those which currently inform and direct robot development. This contextual shift; from the screen and laboratory to the domestic and the everyday is aimed at introducing new ways of informing the design of robots; our relationships and interactions with them and their meaning not as visions, props or demos but as real things in our homes.
The project challenges normative notions of robots on two levels:
1. How robots look.
2. What robots do.
There is not one standard image of the robot, but a brief survey into their various materials and forms suggests that they would mostly look wholly out of place in the modern home. Robots often exaggerate their mechanical heritage showing exposed metal, gears and cables. Alternatively workings are hidden by sleek, shiny, stylised futuristic plastic and chrome. The fact that they are traditionally objects of the future perhaps leads to designers shaping them with a futuristic look.
By applying a sensibility for the domestic landscape and the people who live there we can imagine an entirely different aesthetic for robots in tune with contemporary lifestyles and aspirations. We therefore have adopted a contemporary design aesthetic as exemplified by the products and furniture displayed within the pages of Wallpaper magazine.
When asking the simple but surprisingly poignant question: “what would robots do in the home?” The recurring theme is that of labour saving device or as an artificial companion like a pet dog or cat. But what labour is left in the modern home that would justify the cost of a complex robot, and what advantages are there of employing a robot over a real living pet?
These robots create a new taxonomy of object. Their reliance on living prey for energy (via a microbial fuel cell) situates them somewhere between houseplant, pet and electronic product. They resemble other products around the home but can die like a plant thus our relationship with them becomes charged and emotional.
The Project was done in collaboration with Jimmy Loizeau and was part of Material Beliefs.