trivia robot

2008 - 2009 The trivia robot was a walking robot I built with human body temperature sensors that were activated when people entered the gallery. It would clumsily attempt to limp over to them while it spouted off a recorded loop of trivia information the viewer did not need to know. Trivia Robot 3’ tall, 3’ long, 18” wide (roughly toddler-sized) silicone, rubber, aluminum, hardware, sound circuitry, sensors, code, micro-controllers, sound recording, amplifiers, speakers.

I showed the Trivia Robot at the FOFA gallery in Concordia, and PRIM. It never worked properly. I wound up suspending the robot from the ceiling so that it kicked its little legs in the air instead of limping after humans. I decided I'd rather never show again, than be a flake who couldn't deliver what she proposed.

In retrospect, I've come to realize that this was pretty simplistic. I haven't really exhibited my work since then, and that's never a good thing. These things

need humans in order to exist. Robots are social mechanisms, this is what gives them their charge. And a robot is kind of like an old and unreliable car that needs constant maintenance, even a project that is carefully planned and exhaustively tested can succumb to metal-fatigue, motor-failure, communication failure or other unpredictable breakdowns. In any case, this was also the moment when I was completely hooked, I decided to go to graduate school, lock myself away and hunker down to figure things out. I've gotten a lot better at troubleshooting, planning, testing but I've also gotten MUCH slower at working. Sometimes, it's just more fun to be ignorant!

Building the Trivia robot

The Trivia Robot was supposed to detect people as they walked into the space, go after them and start spouting useless trivia that they didn't need to hear. and it wouldn't stop. This was the 2nd robotics project I ever tackled, and of course, I didn't altogether know what I was doing. This short piece shows some of the building process: the aluminum leg mechanism, riveting on the blue rubber skin... I trawled far and wide for trivia on everything from chickens to sports from antique children's encyclopedias, legal tomes, and the internet. It never walked, it limped in a kind of endearing way. The second time I exhibited the motor controller over-heated and started smoking.

first public show @ PRIM

A quick shot of the first time I tried to present the Trivia robot in public, at PRIM, a media and video centre in Montreal. In retrospect it's easy for me to see why this wasn't working. I think in the end it was a couple of crossed wires...

As soon as you fall in love with robotics you have to fall in love with testing everything to death, having a plan b, c, and d... or you have to get used to having projects fail in public. This was the first time that I realized that just because something worked the night before, it doesn't mean that it will work again on the day.

@ InterAccess

This short video just shows a bit of the set-up at a group show at InterAccess in Toronto. As always, looking back on old projects, it's almost physically painful to see how badly built some elements are... But there's other that are beautiful... like the Trivia Robot's blue rubber skin, which took months of work to cast. And the casting process itself landed me in the emergency room with a severe allergic reaction, in spite of working next to a good air-exchange ventilation system. I'm super, super allergic to latex.

limping awkwardly in my tiny apartment

I always loved the clanking spoons kind of sound that the poor trivia robot made as it moved around. This video was shot in my tiny studio apartment in Montreal. I was trying to figure out, as I let it clank around, why only half of it seemed to be working. I think I found it's awkward limp kinda charming, and I'd love to replicate that movement. It was an odd moment, madly trying to build something, with no studio, my crappy soldering iron installed next to my futon...