So, I’ve been driving robots, they’re called Anybots. They’re in California, I’m in Florida, I drive them around their giant robot factory. They’re “telepresence” robots, web-cams on really fancy wheels, marketed mainly toward office-workers who don’t actually want to be IN the office. A friend from UCLA, Cre Engelke, and I are working to make these robots viable communication devices for people with disabilities.
There’s this crazy idea floating around about making the robots “Avatars” for the disabled, like, “virtually” experiencing the beach, a dive bar, through the robot. Until I can make love to my girlfriend in the sand, or get drunk THROUGH a robot, this idea is stupid. Technology for the disabled should be a bridge toward real-world experiences. An extension of presence, not a replacement of presence. These are the goals Cre and I have for the Anybots. We have plans…
Anyway, the Anybots got a new, really high-end web-site over the weekend. They asked if I wanted to write-up a testimonial, and of course, I said, yes! I had to write two. My second was accepted and will be posted, the first was a little too Chuck Palahniuk and didn’t make it, but I hate for it to just disappear…
So, I’m about as physically disabled as it gets. I breathe through hoses connected to machines, I eat through tubes. I can pretty much only move my eyes. Still, assistive technology gives access to Mac OS X, and from there, access to everything else. Access to Anybots.
I’ve been driving an Anybot for awhile, having played video games for 20+ years, getting the hang of the robot was easy. I tool around the factory, scare the dog who often visits, it’s fun. Still, technology for people with physical disabilities is more than fun, it’s a way to extend communication, a way to affect change in the world around us. Anybots are so exciting because we’re still unlocking their full potential, their practical applications. Well, one evening I found a rather unique practical application…
I was breaking up with this girl (don’t worry, I met someone way better, it’s not a sad story), something common to the human experience, though my means of dealing with angst, frustration, rage, are less common, or rather, maybe just limited. I listen to Kurt Cobain sing really loud, or watch zombies eat people, or get a tattoo (provided I have ride to the shop), or convince my friend, Dani, to set something on fire (yes, she actually burns things for me), or… the “ors” run out too quickly. I do, now however, have a new “or.”
She said something that really hit me wrong, I was angry . I wanted to take that intangible anger and do something tangible. At 3 AM, any tattoo shop is closed, and I didn’t have ride anyway. I did have an Anybot, and a well-lit factory lobby, and stuff to hurdle toward and knock down…. and so I did. I took out two promotional signs sitting on easels, emptied a coffee table of its magazines (which took some doing). I FLEW in a blind fury toward a table-top potted plant… but stopped short. I didn’t want to murder some poor plant. The lobby looked train-wrecky enough, and I felt sated. I’d done something I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do, I made physical change in the world without getting a tattoo, or having to convince Dani to burn something.
Like I said, we’re still discovering the Anybots’ full potential, they’re better for more than knocking stuff down, but knocking stuff down is a fun start.
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