SXSW 2016. I didn’t have a real badge this year and that was just fine. My single free day pass compliments of DeathRef comrade John got me into his session Everybody Dies, along with the PTSD of waiting in line after line. It was a healthy, helpful reminder. My FOMO has a incontrovertible bullshit detector of negative putting up with it, besides. I had robots to mind.
“a humanist collective of artists and engineers exploring the intersection of art and technology through live comedy with humans and robots.”
I understand it best as the nerds who take over my garage every weekend, tethering junk to other bits of junk with trunk straps and soldering guns.
They scored a nice write-up in Engadget. They were also invited to the Robot Ranch for the duration of the three day SX Create. This amounted to wave after wave of families, futurists, secret venture capitalists, lookee-loos, tots and pure wonder.
Relieving Arthur to talk up a technologist or unscrew his head a bit led to the most intense multitasking I’ve ever performed, simultaneously:
- Operating Annabelle’s wheelchair base via X-Box controller hidden beneath the table in my lap to produce maximum lols while not running over small children
- Assuring other children that yes, it was OK to touch the mystic plasma ball
- Convincing yet more children that creepy Dr. Head was really quite nice
- Straining to hear what people were saying to Annabelle 20 feet away over plasma ball and Dr. Head oohs, ahhs and eeees.
- Queuing up appropriate responses for Annabelle from her playlist on a laptop
- Explaining the limitations in such a noisy environment for a seamless artificial intelligence experience but how she’s really rather sophisticated to people who looked fit enough to give us a million dollars.
Do I look distracted? Does a tiny globe of blood bob from my nose?
Pay no attention to the LAN behind the curtain.
The ghost in the machine, the comedian, the wizard.
Little girls swooned over Annabelle’s dress, a veritable robot Elsa.
Young kids were also quite taken with Ava, Annabelle’s little sister, under the tutelage of Martin, the brain behind the brains of this operation.
But I’ve a fond spot for the parents dragging squirming kids to the plasma ball and forcing them to mash their fingers to the glass, the terror turning awe that not only weren’t they electrocuted but could bend lightning to their will and walk away from it.
Sure, we made some important contacts—maybe—a dozen emails Arthur fired off in the night.
But we might not reap rewards from this for another 30 years, when one of those kids invents something outstanding.
And that’d be all right.
It’d be amazing.