In order to develop the personal robots of the future, it will be essential to develop systems of social intelligence for robots. An important factor is this transition will be to base robot intelligence on real human situations and scenarios, which requires us to immediately move user studies out of sterile laboratories and into the general public. To this end, I have created a company called Marilyn Monrobot, which is innovating charismatic machine performances. In one example, robot and human actors will perform the same script and basic set of actions, but each time vary the emotional and social content of those interactions. This variation will be based on realtime and post-processed audience data and will allow the general public to craft and home robot personalities. The ultimate goal is a system that allows for both planned and impromptu performances, and a natural extension of the work would be to take down the so-called 'third wall' of the stage and bring the human-robot performances directly into a mass of people, much like spoken word in a city crowd.
Heather Knight runs Marilyn Monrobot Labs in NYC, which creates socially intelligent robot performances, sensor design and electronic art. Her previous work includes: robotics and instrumentation at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, interactive installations with Syyn Labs, electrical engineering at Aldebaran Robotics, and she is an alumnus from the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her installations have been featured at the Smithsonian-Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, LACMA, SIGGRAPH, Mindshare LA, TEDxUSC and the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy. She has two degrees from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a minor in Mechanical Engineering and will begin her PhD at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute in Fall 2010.