After spending years building robots at MIT’s Media Lab and doing stints at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Heather Knight is now a PhD student in social robotics at Carnegie Mellon. She just started a new project “to explore modern relationships between mankind, technology and nature.” Sounds relevant but a bit dry and nerdy, except of course Ms Knight founded a company cheekily called Marilyn Monrobot, has a sidekick called Data who does standup comedy everywhere from the stage at TED Women to Union Square in New York, and is venturing to understand human-machine relationships through a decidedly un-nerdy medium: a Robot film festival!
On July 16-17 this week in New York City, both man and machine will walk the red carpet at the Three-Legged Dog in Lower Manhattan to participate in the world’s first Robot Film Festival. According to the organizers:
“The big finale on Saturday is a black-tie event (think Robot Oscars) following the screening all the films on July 16. Prior to the red-carpet awards ceremony, festival-goers will be treated to interactive art and technology installations curated by students at the Interactive Telecommunications Program of NYU, a cocktail party and human robot performances. During the awards ceremony, attendees will learn to “do the robot” from L.A.-based robot dance professional Josh Ventura.”
Heather Knight, also a Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute, is one of the few people in the increasingly important study of human-technology relationships who remembers to put fun and creativity in intellectual research. Yet one only needs to look at a toddler flipping nonchalantly through pages on an iPad to know that children feel intuitively far more familiar with machines than we do. We can’t possibly conceive the world in which we’ll live with machines, a hybrid reality that we can only imagine through fiction and drama. Heather believes that the mythologies we create through robot films will in fact one day shape the way we live with them. One of the films you’ll see in the Festival will in fact be a video created by middle school students in their Terrabotic program (created and administrated by the Science House Foundation).
If you really want to imagine a future with robots, start with the Robot Film Festival. It’s already one of the most talked about events in the blogosphere. Saturday is sold out but a few tickets are still available for Sunday here: http://robotfilmfestival.eventbrite.com/
Sunday’s film-making workshop promises to be fun: participants are organized into interdisciplinary teams, in which they pull together a story and quickly shoot and edit the footage, all in a three-and-a-half hourperiod. A gallery of the workshop films will be featured online alongside the award-winning films.
Enjoy! Follow the event on Twitter: @robotfilmFest