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Mother, Lala & Me

Robot, Digital Media


2008 Rhode Island School of Design
MFA Graduation Show

Lala is an inquisitive robot. Decked out with a wide array of sensors, but not able to figure out any meaning in what the sensors detect, Lala relies on Mother to learn new things. Lala asks Mother questions about everything it encounters.

Mother looks like a nondescript box, but has access to the online repository of human-contributed content, known as Wikipedia.

Lala spends its day locating people in its room and taking snapshots of them, then beaming those images wirelessly to Mother. Lala listens to the explanations from Mother, and carefully remembers everything Mother says.

Mother earnestly answers Lala with information that is accessed on the fly from Wikipedia, and within the human-designed algorithms that have been programmed into Mother. These designs and algorithms define the ‘rule book’ mother abides by.

When Lala runs low on battery, Mother calls out for Lala and guides Lala to dock at Mother’s charging station. While the restless Lala recharges, Mother sings soothing lullabies.

The viewer (or participant) is invited to observe the results of their interactions through Mother’s view port‚ via a monitor suspended in a corner of the room. What Lala ‘learns’ can be utterly asinine, or exhibit a form of pseudo-intelligence that comes about more by accident than anything else.

But for Lala, Mother knows best.