As kids filled with thoughts from Disney movies, we all imagined that our household items might one day magically come alive and interact with us. Makers Shanshan Zhou, Adam Ben-Dor, and Joss Doggett have now made that dream a reality with their face-tracking lamp, appropriately dubbed Pinokio.
While it may appear to be an everyday desktop item, this “attention-seeking robot” sports a webcam where traditional lamps usually have a bulb. The webcam possesses the ability to track the motion of individuals within the room and seeks out human faces. Once it finds a face, the Pinokio is programmed to monitor the face and follow its movement.
According to its creators, customized computer code and electronic circuit design “imbues Pinokio with the ability to be aware of its environment, especially people, and to expresses a dynamic range of behavior.”
In the event that someone hides their face behind their hands, or say turns around, the Pinokio will curiously seek for another face within the room. Think of this high-tech lamp as having the same mentality as an eager puppy! Just like a puppy, if the Pinokio loses track of a face, a few quick claps will snap it right back to attention.
Zhou says that the Pinokio “compares so greatly to interacting with a real personality, interacting with a real animal, rather than a semi-intelligent toy.” This lifelike personality comes from the on-board [Atmel based] Arduino that is programmed to procedurally manipulate six servo motors. The lamp can even be toggled into “introvert” or “extrovert” modes, which will drastically alter the movement decision-making process.
While the Pinokio may be the first step into human interaction with robots, Zhou notes, “I do believe with future robots or human-machine-interaction, we should look into our natural interaction with something that is alive, such as animals and children. I believe getting artists and designers involved in mechanics and electronics creations will give machines of tomorrow a bit more humanity.”
“In the end we may ask: Is Pinokio only a lamp? A useful machine? Perhaps we should put the book aside and meet a new friend.”