February 10th, 2022—
If you’re like most people, you click “accept all” whenever a website asks you to allow cookies. That button is big and enticing, begging you to click so you can get to your content without thinking about the purpose of the cookies. That purpose is usually to serve you personalized ads, but you let the website track you because it asked you in a nice way. To replicate that effect in a tangible way, Guillaume Slizewicz built these Arduino-controlled robots.
“Accept All” is an art installation Nemur, Belgium’s Le Pavillon. It consists of a few small wheeled robots that drive around the room. When they see a person, they scurry over to bump into that person’s shins. And people are happy to let them, because the robots are very cute. One has silly little horns. Another wears a grass hula skirt. Another looks like a jelly fish going through a goth phase. As with Internet cookies, people comply with the robots’ minor annoyance because they are pleasant.
But, like cookies, these robots are tracking people. A Google Coral AI board peers at the world through a small camera and detects people by using an OpenCV script. When a robot sees someone, its Coral board sends a command to an Arduino via serial. The Arduino then controls drive motors that push the robot into the person’s legs. Slizewicz doesn’t actually collect data on the people his robots encounter. But the point is that he could and nobody would mind, since the robots are endearing.
(Image credits: courtesy Guillaume Slizewicz)