This July 16th-17th, 2011, the world’s first Robot Film Festival will take place at the Three Legged Dog Art and Technology Center in New York City. The event was created by roboticist Heather Knight, who is currently conducting her doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute while running Marilyn Monrobot Labs in NYC, which creates socially intelligent robot performances and sensor-based electronic art.
Last year, Knight worked with Syyn Labs on OK Go‘s famous viral video This Too Shall Pass. “I realized how incredibly talented entertainers are at engaging and touching an audience. They know how to craft a story that will go viral. Meanwhile, as engineers and roboticists, we’re good at packing something together and making something work. It seems like a perfect marriage to combine those communities for inspiration and the ability to follow through,” says Knight. Knight (pictured below) hopes the festival will inject a sense of playfulness into traditional science and engineering, while exploring new frontiers for robotics before the technology is even possible.
Out of 74 films submitted, 53 were accepted. Criteria included relevance to robotics, storytelling, length, depiction of interaction between robots and people, overall entertainment value, inspiration of future technologies, creativity and robot design. The two-day celebration of robots is a red carpet event complete with cocktails, photo ops and technology-based art installations cherry picked from the NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Dress is black tie and robots are encouraged to sport sequins.
5 reasons to attend:
1. Spike Jonze
The event opens on Saturday with a screening of “I’m Here,” a robot love story by Where the Wild Things Are Director Spike Jonze. The movie is set in contemporary L.A., where life moves at a seemingly regular pace with the exception of a certain amount of robot residents who love among the population. A male robot librarian lives a solitary and methodical life — devoid of creativity, joy and passion -until he meets an adventurous and free spirited female robot. The film stars British actor Andrew Garfield (Boy A, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Social Network) and Sienna Guillory, one of’s 100 sexiest women. Watch the trailer here:
2. Performers include:
- Reggie Watts: innovative Brooklyn based comedian has created a special performance with Data the Robot, a collaboration with festival founder Heather Knight.
- Jilted: singer and guitarist Milena Mepris has two video-based virtual selfs on bass and keyboard, whom she controls and triggers with foot pedals while “rocking your socks off”.
- Double Rainbow: A machine-human rockband with fluorescent percussive robots, each its own character, blending prehistoric with hipster futuristic.
- Robot Cowboy: This is their token Cyborg performance. Dan Wilcox performs with a live monitor mounted on his head. Why have separate video projections when you can *be* the projection?
- Josh Ventura: The Robot Dance professional is making a special trip from LA to help get you moving, in full formal wear!
3. The Botskers
On Saturday evening, the official awards ceremony of the Robot Film Festival, The Botskers (think Oscars) will be held as a black tie, red carpet event to honor the winners. Expect wild art, cocktails and robot paparazzi! Categories will include: Best Robot Actor, Best Laughs, Best Robot Dance, Most Inspiring, Most Impactful, Most Uncanny, Best Robot Future and more. The robot statuettes themselves, designed by Shawn Sims, will be 3D printed and robotically milled with their winning award categories.
4. Make-your-own-Film workshops
Learn how to make your own short films at The Film Festival’s Make-your-own-Film workshops, courtesy of New York Science House. The workshop will rely on the creativity of the participants to form interdisciplinary teams, pull together a story and quickly shoot and edit the footage in a 3.5 hour period. The event will provide materials and support resources to help attendees. Also on hand will be Heather Knight’s humanoid robot Data (constructed by Aldebaran Robotics and pictured above), Marek Michalowski’s Keepon robot (which he co-invented), large piles of materials, and support staff from Magic Future Box and New York Film Academy.
5. The BotBQ
The BotBQ is the closing celebration of the festival. Expect tinfoil hats, botgers, roboribs and heaping spoonfulls of podata salad.
“One of the goals of the festival is to inspire people to tell stories with robots, sharing insights across disciplines and learning by doing. We hope this will be the start of many future collaborations and that participants will take this in directions we could never have anticipated,” says Knight.