p0 : Joel Simon

  1. Hello everyone, I am Joel. I already know a handful of you and look forward to getting to know the rest. I have an eclectic group of things I like to make in my free-time including lamps, video games, robotics and figurative sculpture. I think a lot of my software projects have lacked a certain amount of visual polish, in IACD I hope to take any ideas to the next level of finesse and maybe even create some lasting open source projects.
  2. https://twitter.com/JoelSSimon
  3. https://github.com/Sloth6

The SmallTalk robot is something I made summer 2012 for the FE gallery in pittsburgh in response to a call for submissions. I copied the following summary from my website…

The SmallTalk robot connects to the internet and makes small talk about the weather, the news, the day of the week and more. It has onboard text-to-speech capabilities as well as text display on a bicolor LED array.

As seen in the video below, the robot was part of the “Robots of Unusual Sizes” exhibit at Pittsburgh’s FE gallery. Here’s an excerpt from a review by art critic Kurt Shaw in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Like Upchurch’s pieces, Carnegie Mellon University art and computer science student Joel Simon’s “Small Talk Robot” engages visitors with direct communication. However, instead of just sound, it uses text and data culled from the Internet and puts it in the form of questions. As if engaging in small talk, an LED screen flickers real-time text punctuated with typical small-talk questions and phrases like “How about that?” and “I hate Mondays.”

Simon says motivation for the piece came from a desire to have viewers explore their relationship with robots and their everyday use of small talk. “If a robot is capable of small talk, and small talk is often the majority of a relationship, then that says something.”

There also is humor in the piece, as it makes fun of how silly and ridiculous small talk is. Another element is that, while the piece is openly absurd in itself, robot companionship is becoming increasingly practical and useful.

“If the elderly can have robotic animals to keep them company, then why can’t the rest of us have robots to fill in at cocktail parties and art-gallery openings for us?” Simon asks.