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Pittsburgh’s Robot Film Festival: Preview

November 6, 2015

Heather1

The fifth Annual Robot Film Festival takes place in Pittsburgh on Saturday, 7 November 2015, at Row House Cinema. Pittsburgh loves robots so much that I like to think of it as a little island of Japan in the center of our country. The full-day festival, taking place for the first time in this city, will celebrate local robotics innovation and creativity with the theme Robots at Work. The festival explores the various roles of robot workers –as  innovators, replacements, creative collaborators, and extensions of ourselves.

Highlights:

  • Morning Kids Edition for the younger crowd
  • Headlining series of shorts from the NYTimes called Robotica
  • Curated short film screenings in the afternoon from around the world
  • Robots at Work talk by roboticist and local author Illah Nourbakahsh
  • Red carpet evening Bots&Brews with demos, beer and photography
  • Botskers Award Ceremony celebrates winning shorts with 3D printed statuettes
  • Robot comedy and cyborg performances throughout

Meet Baymax! Or at least the research that inspired Baymax’s creation. The festival is on the one year anniversary of the Big Hero Six release date. Baymax’s design was inspired by the local Carnegie Mellon researcher Chris Atkenson’s investigations into inflatable robots. To celebrate, we will welcome a locally crafted Baymaxter – a mashup of an inflatable Baymax with the Rethink Robotic’s Baxter platform used as a robotic exoskeleton. They’re trying to build Baymax for real!

For the first time ever, the festival will also feature a RFF, Kids Edition! with film screenings, activities, and robot costume contest open to all ages. Participants will meet local robots, like the Triceratops robot from Birdbrain Technologies and dress up as robots thanks to the robot costuming elements from Assemble Pittsburgh.

The afternoon film screenings will open with a Robot Comedy performance by Ginger the robot (my protégée). We’re dividing the films to explore concepts of automation and autonomy — where robots follow and break our machine stereotypes. In the automation section, we consider robots who do tasks instead of us (playing ping pong, tossing Frisbees), for us (shaving us in the shower, caring for our needs), or in our reflection (dancing, ultra-realistic humanoids). The old-fashioned assumption is that if we push robots too far, everything will go wrong, as in this modular robotics video featured at the event

In a society where we’re joined at the hip with our cellphones, I think the world is ready for more optimistic endings. Our second set of films push past robot stereotypes, and expand our expectations. Autonomy introduces the possibility of robots that may surprise us (playfully, creatively), decide their own directives and desires (seeking to assist birds rather than people, helping a plant) or be more than utilitarian (engaging us in addition to achieving objectives). We cannot predict the future, but with reflection and positive storytelling, perhaps we can craft it.

Heather2

Robots on the red carpet. As always, the event culminates in a BOTSKERS awards ceremony celebration, with live robot comedy and cyborg performances, and preceded by red carpet, robot demos, and 3D-printed robot statuettes. Attendees will enjoy craft beer selections at Atlas Bottleworks, adjoining the Row House Cinema, watch 3D-printers creating, Baymax hugging, interactive marquis lighting, and any other robot wonders that come walking or wheeling in!

At our festival, robots will always get free admission. As for the rest of you:

Kids Edition, 10am-noon
Films, activities, demos, costume contest, all ages welcome.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/robot-film-festival-kids-edition-saturday-november-7-2015-tickets-19064812367

Main Event, 2-10pm
Screenings, red carpet, bots & brews, award ceremony
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/robot-film-festival-v-saturday-november-7-2015-pittsburgh-tickets-19060990937

Heather Knight is a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon and founder of Marilyn Monrobot.. read more


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