Boxie the robot will kill you with cuteness
How do you get people to engage and connect with machines and computers? Researchers at MIT have a pretty simple answer.
We know Superman's weakness is kryptonite, but what about the rest of us mortals? What can bring us to our knees and turn us into a pile of goo? Cuteness, that's what.
Meet Boxie, the cutest cardboard robot to ever roam Earth. Boxie is the creation of a team researchers at MIT's Media Lab, who set out on a project to gather stories from people with only the help of machines. Of course, part of the challenge there is to get humans to open up to a robot, but the solution turned out to be pretty simple: make the robot adorable.
Led by researcher Alexander Reben, the group from MIT designed Boxie out of cardboard and equipped it with a microprocessor, a board that generates audio, and some sensors, among other things.
Reben said they originally made Boxie out of white plastic but the end result was rather scary looking, so they made the switch to cardboard. Not only more friendly looking, cardboard also kept the cost, complexity, and weight down, allowing the team to create more Boxies.
Once released into the wild, Boxie would ask strangers various questions, ranging from something simple like, "I'm really short. Can you put me on a table or hold me, so I can see you?" to something more personal, such as "Can you tell me what you do here?" The cardboard cutie did this about six hours a day, reporting back its condition regular via any open Wi-Fi networks.
Boxie's puppy-dog-like eyes and child-like voice tugged at many a heart string. However, not everyone took to Boxie. Some treated the robot roughly (cold-hearted monsters!), and Reben told New Scientist that he once found Boxie in the trash, while another time an intern spotted a child trying to kidnap the robot.
In all, Boxie collected about 50 interviews over the course of a few days, and you can check out some of the reactions in the video below. While certainly an endearing and feel-good clip, the Boxie project brings up an interesting point about our interactions with tech and what attracts us to them in the first place.
Nowadays, a lot of people obsess over and judge tech based on whether it has the latest and greatest specs, but Boxie proves that something simple with a good design and friendly interface can be just as or even more satisfying and engaging than the next big thing.