The Other Encounter

A social robotics science performance and research by Futurice













Have you ever wondered what the world looks like through the eyes of a robot? If you were a robot, what would you say to a human? As a human, what would you say to a robot in an intimate conversation?

In The Other Encounter – a science performance by Futurice – we study interactions between humans and robots. We explore the concept of trust, the future of communication, and the future of self. What are the requirements for social robots in urban environments? What are the challenges that social robots can help us to solve in our present and future society?

The first Other Encounter took place on September 11th as a part of the Helsinki Design Week. The audience tried out having a discussion with a robot, or witnessed others doing that. 18 participants signed up as interviewers to ask Momo the Robot anything from politics to the meaning of life. Three brave volunteers gave their voices to Momo to answer the questions; the philosopher Johanna Ahola-Launonen, media person Tuomas Enbuske, and the musician Kasmir. The discussion ranged from getting married to a toaster to bringing peace to the world.

Momo met the guests seated at the shop window of the Columbia Road office in the central Helsinki. The Helsinki Design Week audience could walk by, watch and listen the discussion. This first Other Encounter -event was a co-operation between Futurice, Futurice Robotics, Columbia Road and Apple Cyber Collective. Helsinki Digitalents helped us record the event.

Momo

Momo the robot is a customised humanoid robot with a 3D printed chassis of the InMoov design, designed by Gael Langevin and built by Futurice with help from Helsinki Digitalents, Aalto University and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. It has been previously used to experiment in speech therapy for autistic children.

As a part of the Helsinki Design Week event, Momo was wearing a unique dress by Jatuli. The voice was intentionally modulated as inhuman by the Sound Designer Tuomas Ahva.



The images below are clickable.

The Research

The Other Encounter is part of a bigger research project, where Futurice is creating an open knowledge about how social robots should look and feel, what kind of tasks they should perform and how should the human - robot interaction happen and in what kind of situations. The research combines art, science and technology, this gives us experimental tools to dive deeper into a core of what it means to be human.

The Other Encounter is part of a bigger research project, where Futurice is creating open knowledge about social robots. We are defining how human-robot interaction should be designed. Examples of research areas of interest are:

What kinds of robots are best for which domains?
How does the look and feel of a robot affect the user's response to it?
What tasks should a social robot perform?

The research fuses art, science and technology – this unique combination gives us experimental tools to dive deep into the core of what it means to be human.

Previous research has explored the use of an InMoov robot as a tutor of sign language to children with autism. The master's thesis which details this design process is available at:

https://github.com/minjaaxelsson/Masters-thesis/blob/master/master_Axelsson_Minja_2018.pdf

What people controlling the robot thought

I found the world peace discussion the most exciting, as I felt like having a fancy mask, allowing me to fire whatever harsh facts – as it is the robot that is talking. If this was a normal discussion, I might choose my words to sound less like a pamphlet. The robot is allowed to sound like a pamphlet and talk about great matters. It was a bit like talking from behind a masquerade mask. A liberating situation.
– Johanna Ahola-Launonen, Philosopher
People were polite, they could have asked much uglier questions. People act nice when they see each others eyes, it is surprising. Our reptilian brain perceive the robot as a human, if it looks like a human. Even simple fake face is an archetype, people talk to it like to a human. Same goes with animals and objects, they are considered human. And that is fine.
– Tuomas Enbuske, Journalist, TV presenter
I just said random things!! You weirdly feel like you are the robot, you need to be in some role. Could have been just myself maybe. But it's interesting why you go in that mode, try to behave like a robot? Is it because people expect robots to be overly matter-of-fact? What'd be creepier, if they'd behave just like a friend of yours?
– Kasmir, Musician

What people talking to the robot thought

Knowing Momo is controlled by a human, I would trust it just as much as I'd trust any human, who I meet at the street. I am a trusting person and I believe that by default people wish you well, unless there is a reason to think otherwise. Seven, on a scale from one to ten then.
When I entered I realised I approached as if there was some person with a space that I need to respect. I did not just barge in, instead I approached it like it was a living thing, even though I know it isn't. I felt similarly nervous as meeting a new person. Well, of course there was a new person. It was strange.
First I didn't quite know how, if it was a human, to tell its age. Would it be like two years old, five years, teenager, or an old bearded mentor?
The first impression was surreal. Quite strange, but also tranquil, in a way quite trusting. Difficult to describe. Could be a similar feeling to meet your own idol live.
Momo said that it is paradoxical how people are concerned about the human rights of robots, while at the same time for a large number of actual people these rights are not realised. It was a pretty good ending and a good crystallisation from Momo.

Contacts for Other Encounter

Annina Antinranta

Concept Owner, Futurice

Minja Axelsson

Robotics, Futurice

Olli Ohls

Robotics, Futurice

Thanks


A big thank you to everyone who participated the Other Encounter science performance at Helsinki Design Week 2018!

The Other Encounter Crew at Helsinki Design Week 2018:

Massive thank you to Momo’s voices: Tuomas Enbuske, Kasmir & Johanna Ahola-Launonen

Team Futurice: Annina Antinranta, Olli Ohls, Minja Axelsson, Niki Ulmanen, Arttu Tolonen, Pekka Lehtinen, Petri Rikkinen, Ida Sandberg, Kilian Kottmeier, and Teemu Turunen

Sound design and setup by Tuomas Ahva

Momo’s dress by Nina Jatuli

Logistics and premises by Columbia Road: Patricia Åkerman & Marju Rotinen
The event space: Columbia Road, Eerikinkatu 5, Helsinki

Lighting design by Joonas Saine

Illustrations by Ida Sandberg

Photography by Kilian Kottmeier

Videos by Digitalents and Apple Cyber Collective

Audio equipment by Sonivision

Lighting equipment by Valofirma