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The Intimidated Prism

Alive(n) | Projects

  • The Intimidated Prism is a robot designed to appear threatened when a human subject approaches it, shrinking and covering itself much as a possum plays dead when it is scared. A robot that tricks a person into believing it has feelings and acts on them could challenge the user to reconsider what it means to be alive and conscious. It might cause the user to think about what makes robots so different from them. 

    The first few iterations of the project involved simple methods of moving paper panels up and down, but these mechanisms soon proved to be unreliable and didn't get the emotion across clearly. The last prototype looked much like the final except it was made mainly of cardboard, and there were a few problems with the design. After editing the design and laser-cutting the wooden frame, the final model came together. Made of panels of colored paper supported by wooden poles, the “unthreatened” Prism appears tall, interesting, and lively. When the human subject gets within 25 cm of the robot, an ultrasonic sensor sends this information to an Arduino, which activates internal servos. The paper walls collapse, creating the illusion that the robot is shrinking down in order to hide. Rolls of black fabric are released over the sides covering the robot's base. The sudden collapse and movement are designed to make the user feel responsible for startling the robot, which now appears lifeless, less exciting, and intimidated.