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Go on, you know you wanna smell this robot armpit

Kevin Grennan loves stinky machines. The London designer's armpit robot explores how smell can change the human-robot dynamic.

Kevin Grennan

The horror! The horror!

Designer Kevin Grennan really plumbed some kind of cybernetic heart of darkness when he conceived this supremely nasty robot armpit.

Now on display at the Design Interactions Show 2011 at the Royal College of Art in London, this little Sarlacc pit doesn't do much besides sweat and stink.

It releases "Japanese standard artificial sweat," according to Grennan. Would that be Pocari Sweat, the sports drink that comes in a blue can?

Not so, Grennan explained to me: "The armpit currently emits Japanese industrial-recipe artificial sweat, which is used in testing fabrics. This artificial sweat doesn't smell particularly strongly; there is a faint hint of urea though."


Kevin Grennan

Holding my nose, I asked Grennan for further details about his monstrosity creation: "The armpit was 3D-printed using an SLA machine (stereolithography apparatus) at the Royal College of Art; it's made of an epoxy resin. It was then painted and dipped in latex to give it a fleshy appearance. Real human hair was glued on to give the final effect."

No cutting corners with this prototype. After all, Grennan has plans for it. He's imagined how it might be used to enhance conventional robots.

For instance, a surgery robot (right) could be equipped with a similar sweat gland that releases oxytocin, a chemical that could induce a feeling of trust in a patient when inhaled. Or it could just freak people out.

"Each robot that I have augmented with a 'sweat gland' emits a particular chemical that has a specific effect on humans, and the chemical has been chosen to further enable the robot's primary function," Grennan told the site we make money not art.

Grennan obviously appreciates humor. He's also done a video of an android celebrating its birthday by trying, in vain, to blow out candles on a cake.

"Robots have no need for annually recurring birthdays," he says, "but would celebrating their anniversaries of creation enable us to empathize with them to a greater degree?"

Seen below, the actress in the video is, in fact, human. But she had me wondering whether Actroid robots had suddenly become a lot more lifelike.

I'm all for that as long as they don't have sweaty armpits.

Kevin Grennan

(Via IEEE Spectrum)