Tired of being interrupted at work by that annoying ringtone on your
cell phone? A BBC article
suggests it's time to trade in your old timey mobile phone for the
latest robotic replacement; the Cellular
Squirrel. The robot squirrel is actually a clever (and terminally
cute) intelligent agent that uses "subtle but still public non-verbal
cues to get our attention and interrupt us like humans would do (like
eye gaze and small gestures), instead of ringing or vibration". But
it's not as simple as that. The squirrelbot actually answers your
incoming calls and has a conversation with the caller. Meanwhile, it
eavesdrops on conversations that you're having with others locally and it
only alters you to the call if it thinks the call is related or
important enough to warrant an interruption. If having a zombie robot
squirrel control your incoming cell phone calls isn't disturbing enough,
wait until you decide to take one of the calls. The squirrel becomes the
"embodiment" of the caller and you have to talk to the squirrel instead of
the actual caller. There is also a parrot
prototype if you
don't like squirrels. You can blame Stefan Marti of the MIT Media Lab
for this one. To read more about the underlying idea see the paper "Autonomous
Interactive Intermediaries: Social Intelligence for Mobile
Communications Agents" (PDF format).
It's cool, but creepy!
I guess we're going to a cell phone world, but why don't these things
come out for a regular phone first and then for a cell phone. I guess
my VOIP land line is way behind the times.
I know this is just for fun, but it seems a little squirrily to me. :o)
I could see it being just as easy to make a computer version of this
gizmo where as the person on the other end talks a face on the computer
moves its mouth and makes weird expressions. However, going to all the
trouble of making a robotic squirrel seems like someone was really
having fun playing around with this technology.
There have been landline phones that "embodied" the caller for some
time. "Teddyphone" was a regular feature on So Grahmam Norton
and was used for making prank calls etc.. Hoots and screams from the
audience. Me included.
This is another jolly from MIT of course, but the concept is fantastic.
As long as the agent doesn't overstep the mark and not tell you abou
calls that a person would...
Indeed. Bearded British funny-man Bill Bailey notes the apparent
paranoia of squirrels, and suggests that if you watch carefully, they
are rolling tiny joints.
I'm also reminded of British dead-pan funny man Jack Dee, who used to
have a bit about all the "attitude" he got from his intelligent home
appliances. I.e. his answering machine would be quiet for days, and
then say "Oh yeah, Dave rang." The VCR says "I didn't tape that, it was
rubbish. You wouldn't have understood it anyway."
I realise that without using a weary and sarcastic voice, the above
sounds like a promising set of ideas. In fact, isn't that a Tivo? ;)