• Carnegie Science Center is OPEN on Labor Day but CLOSED on Sept. 2 and Sept. 7.

roboworld

Lunar Rover

Do robots dream?

All robots, from factory arm robots to Roombas, dream of being sent to explore other worlds. The proposed robot believes that it is living that dream and is on the Moon searching for signs of life.

To achieve its self-delusion it executes elaborate shadow-play. On one arm, it holds a big slice of Swiss cheese cut roughly into a circle that casts the shadow for the moon on a large screen hung from the ceiling near the wall opposite the robot. On a pair of other arms, the robot has two baby-sized moon-boots hung like marionettes that cast the shadows of the boots walking on that moon. The feet "walk", "hop", tap impatiently, and perform other gestures as the Rover navigates the cheesy surface of its "moon," which in turn rotates to show the progress the rover is making.

Meanwhile, the robot uses a camera and a vision system to find human faces and fish profiles in the vicinity of the Science Center's fish tanks. When it detects either one, other arms move to add appropriate objects to the shadow play, moving the boots to respond with excitement and turn to hurry towards the find. Every so often the robot’s camera peers over to look at the shadow-play that it is creating.

The Lunar Rover is thus a sort of cosmic Don Quixote-bot involved in deliberate self-deception in plain view of the museum visitors. In fact, Science Center visitors share with the fish the role of misidentified extraterrestrial life and therefore are the rough equivalent of the windmills that Don Quixote thought were dragons!

Local Connection

Artist: Ian Ingram; 2009.
Media: Metal, boots, camera, and vision system.

You're #1, by Ian Ingram



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