If the Tribeca Film Festival felt a bit too human, wait until the first ever Robot Film Festival opens in July.
Roboticist Heather Knight, the festival’s founder, hopes to help counter negative stereotypes about robots.
“Terminator types stories are fun but that is not all there is,” said Knight. “There are myths about robots, but this gives the power to create new stories about robots in society.”
If there is anybody who will make strides as a spokesperson for robot-human interactions, it’s Knight. Last year, the bubbly blonde took to the TED stage to showcase Data, a robotic stand-up comedian that gathers audience feedback probably more effectively than most human comedians.
“It’s exciting to unveil the films in a setting where everybody is all about robots,” said Knight. She came up with the idea for the film festival focusing on robots while working on her doctoral research on robots at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute and running Marilyn Monrobot Labs in New York, which creates socially intelligent robot performances and sensor-based electronic art.
Criteria for submission to the festival is that the films need to have a character, real or fictional, that is a robot or have a framing device or narrative that relies on robots. But that can mean a lot of different things, and according to Knight, the definition of robots changes over time.
“For example, dishwashers could be seen as robots at one point but now they are just machines,” she said. “What separates robots from machines for me is a sense of character.”
Expect several emotionally wrought sagas about the life of appliances. The festival will feature screenings, as well as performances by bands that rely on robots, and will take place on July 16-17.