Andra Keay

Describe yourself: Who you are and what you're doing?
I am a 'maker' in human-robot culture. I research, run robot clubs for children, build hobby robots and art works. I'm the founder of the Robot Launch Pad, a new event bringing together people from the robot industry and the startup community, to develop innovative business models for new technologies. I have just received a Masters of Digital Culture (Human-Robot Culture) from University of Sydney, under the aegis of Chris Chesher and Kathy Cleland. My thesis, inspired by the work of Donna Haraway and Jacques Derrida, is "A Robot, Slave or Companion Species", which examines the role of robot competitions in naming robots and creating social roles and expectations for them. Robot competitions are a rite of passage and function as a technological archive. Robots that may have no social purpose are formally named, or dubbed, in the context of competition registration. I collected over 2,000 competition robot names for my research and robot names show most similarity to slave names, rather than pet names or people names. Human-robot culture is all around us. It's about the production of meaning in our interaction with machines.

How did your interest in robots / robotics start?
Ever since I had my first soldering iron, and then realised that most other girls didn't, I've been fascinated by the way technology works in society. Robotics is a mirror not of the brain, but of our culture. And robotics, being embodied and material, also shapes our society. Robots are recalcitrant and I love the way that robots don't generally do anything the way that we imagined they would.

What kind of actions needs to be done in the community to increase the interest and the awareness of robots / robotics?
What is a robot? We are very willing to adopt many robotic and AI developments by incorporating them into existing trusted machines. When a transparent UI is achieved, then we no longer consider the robot. Personally, I believe that regardless of where robotics research is focussed, the public perception of 'robot' is very biomorphic or anthropomorphic. A robot, to be recognised as such, must have some qualities of a familiar friendly animal, somewhat between a mouse and a horse in size. It doesn't even have to be autonomous, as long as it appears to recognise us. A robot that meets these criteria will attract our interest. Many other forms of robotics may only be of interest to the businesses that use them.

If you have any closing remarks or comments about robots / robotics, then go ahead.
Robotics is undergoing a technological democratisation. More and more robots are becoming available and affordable. As more people have access to robotics technology, it is likely that robots will continue to become cheaper. The DIY Drone community exemplifies this pathway, from military to industrial to SME to hobbyist and finally consumers. While very few robots will become consumer items in the near future, the expansion of robotics technology into Small-Medium Enterprises, and service business models, is just beginning.

[source: Vive Les Robots!]

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Andra Keay

My personal robotics research page is at:

Andra Keay

The Robot Launch Pad is at: