About this project
The BlabDroid is a personal social robot filmmaker.
You give the BlabDroid a unique personality or build a personality of your own and it makes a film about your life.
You can then share your video with friends on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and other social media sites. You control the BlabDroid from your cell phone.
We are raising funds to further design and develop BlabDroid into wildly entertaining robot companions. BlabDroid will help you explore your own thoughts about current life and if you want, share your BlabDroid videos and questions with friends. We are not even sure of all the uses for BlabDroid because we think of new ones practically every day! We hope to make these robots very hack-able so you can make them your own and do things we never thought of with them. Thus the funds you help us raise on Kickstarter will go towards perfecting an already awesome technological tool to new means of sharing your life.
What You Get
For $75 you get the starter BlabDroid, it does not move or have sensors like its big brother, but it still connects to your cellphone and has configurable personalities. It is super light and easy to carry. Right now the BlabDroids are made from cardboard, but we are investigating other friendly materials like bamboo. Inside the BlabDroid is the bluetooth module that connects with your phone or computer. For $100 you get some extra goodies.
Here is an early prototype, still deciding on the arms, if you like them (or don't) leave a comment, let us know!
For $299 you get the full BlabDroid, like it's younger sister it connects with your phone so you can control it. It also moves and has sensing capability to interact with the world. You can put your cellphone or camera inside its head and have it interview your friends from the robot's point of view. You can also download more personalities to put in it or create your own with your voice! Watch the video above to see some of what it can do!
Picture of BlabDroid prototype, can you say no to that face?
How it Works
With the BlabDroid app for Android phone, iPhone or your bluetooth computer, you can drive the robot around and have it ask questions remotely. Or use any other audio based app and have that audio played form the BlabDroid. For example, you could drive your robot around playing your favorite tunes.
The BlabDroids are also compatible with apps you already have. Imagine a physical Siri on your side or a robot navigator companion or a robot DJ to spin your Spotify tunes. The BlabDroid platform is also user hackable since the hardware will be based off the Arduino or similar platform, so you can make your own apps and personalities for them.
What Others Are Saying
Wall Street Journal
“My personal favorite may be "Robots in Residence," because it involves cute little robots. ... Brent Hoff, a filmmaker who was sitting at the "Robots in Residence" residence ... explained that this was to be "the first documentary directed entirely by robots."
Humans are involved, however, in that they need to shepherd the bots about, and confess their thoughts and feelings to them every so often. "People say anything to artificial intelligence," he added.”
“The robot apocalypse is coming to cinema. But instead of blowing things up on the big screen, the BlabDroids are attempting to make what could be the first documentary ever filmed and directed by robots.”http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/04/robot-documentary-tribeca/
We plan to open source the Bluetooth protocol as much as possible so you can make your own apps or control the robot over Bluetooth. We will be using an open source microcontroller architecture such as Arduino, which will make the robots even more hackable. Our hope is that the community will find more uses for the BlabDroids in fields such as education.
The robots, called Blabdroid, are voiced by a 7-year-old boy and incorporate MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum’s theory of the “ELIZA effect,” which found that people are inclined to anthropomorphize computers and engage emotionally with artificial intelligence. Although this initially lead Weizenbaum to worry about AI’s potential to manipulate, Alexander Reben the roboticist and Brent Hoff, the film maker behind BlabDroid believe robots can also be used for good, and have created robots that have been traveling to various international film festivals proving themselves capable of inspiring meaningful interactions. (As proof, Tribeca Film Festival programmers have not given their BlabDroid back and we don't blame them!).The robots ask us the questions we don’t ask each other.
Risks and challenges
We probably don't need to tell you that it is in fact very difficult to make reliable, sturdy robots. So far, all BlabDroid have been made by hand at great time and expense, but obviously this will not be possible if BlabDroid are to reach market. Design for manufacture costs, parts sourcing, building and shipping will all be likely difficult decisions to face. The cardboard design is both durable and aesthetically pleasing, but plywood and other natural, sustainable materials are also being explored, In this endeavor, we do have some specific advantages including friends with connections.
Also, BlabDroid has formed a partnership with the great creative digital agency in New York, Sideblow Inc. to help guide the process and build the digital platform for BlabDroid. We are confident we can by-pass some of the most common risks and hurdles to making an electronic product for global distribution.
The BlabDroid starter is a simpler BlabDroid, unlike it's big brother BlabDroid : BlabDroid it does not move and has less sensing capabilities. However, both have Bluetooth to connect with your phone's audio and the BlabDroid application.
You bet! Since BlabDroid connects to your phone through Bluetooth, most any Bluetooth program with audio can use the BlabDroid. This includes Spotify, Siri, GPS navigation, alarm clocks and more!
The CelebDroid and HollyDroid do and the others do not, but each blabdroid has a space for you to put it your own camera in its head. Whether that be your GoPro, iPhone or select other devices.
Besides being documentary capturing robots, the BlabDroids will be
user hackable. The full BlabDroid : BlabDroid and above will be based off the popular Arduino platform, allowing users to modify their bot as a bluetooth robotics platform. In doing so, you can make the robot into whatever you wish. The starter BlabDroid will be a generic bluetooth audio device, again making it compatible for user hacking. Make a robot guard dog, alarm clock, boom box or voice command info-droid.
The starter BlabDroid will be cardboard. We would like to offer the other versions with a wood option, however we will not know if that is feasible until we design for manufacture, which is a process that will be funded by this Kickstarter. The more we raise over our goal, the more likely this will be.
The starter BlabDroid's only sensors will be buttons. The other BlabDroids will have various sensors in them such as distance. The exact sensors will be unknown until we design for manufacture, which is a process that will be funded by this Kickstarter. The more we raise over our goal, the more likely this will be. However, since a phone is connected to the robot, we can leverage its sensors. Most phones have accelerometers, light sensing, sound, GPS and other sensing such as face recognition which the robot can leverage. Furthermore, since we plan to make the robot hackable, you can add more sensors if you choose!
Will the BlabDroid have an interface to the camera, e.g. the go pro, so the Droid can control basic shooting modes?
All of the robots can utilize your Bluetooth cameraphone. We hope to partner with other companies like GoPro and Apple to hardware support their devices. The more popular the BlabDroids become, the more possible this may be, so spread the word!
Within reason. Our cardboard prototypes survived the streets of NYC over the course of the Tribeca film festival. However, the robots will not be water resistant, so bring an umbrella. You may find your BlabDroid will not leave your side.
The current BlabDroids run off rechargeable AA batteries and the runtime is 2-3 hours with the motors running or 3-4 hours just running the camera. However, we hope to design the new BlabDroids with lithium ion or similar technologies for a longer battery life and a lighter 'bot.
- (45 days)