Check this out www.blabdroid.com. I’m at Thinking Digital 2013 and just had a presentation from Alexander Reben who describes himself as a roboticist – very cool indeed. He is working with these Blabdroids, small robots that go round filming people, asking them questions and creating content without a human behind the lens.
It is incredible what people will say to an inanimate object. Look at the film they (?) have produced, it’s like a confessional. People are saying things and opening themselves up to a machine in a way that they would find very difficult to with flesh and blood. Somehow they have accepted the Blabdroid as a sentient being, anthropomorphised them and given them a soul. They have let out their feelings, their guilt, their hopes and fears and several were reduced to tears.
But why? OK, the Blabdroids are very cute, a few inches tall, made or rather covered with cardboard and a have happy smiling faces. They also speak in a childlike voice which appeals to us as adults and resonate with us as children. Perhaps that is why. The Blabdroids are cute, helpless, innocent and can’t mean any harm to anyone and humans respond to this and open up and tell their stories.
The cuter they are the more people will respond to them and it seems that making them even more helpless, for example by making them fall over on their backs, tugs on our heart strings and makes us rush to help them as if they were a kitten stuck in a tree.
So where is this going? The Blabdroids have made me think about communication and engagement in general but especially in a work environment. I’m supposed to be in charge, I’m supposed to have all the answers and be a practiced communicator but the best engagement will happen (so my new little friends tell me) when my audience feels at ease, unarmed and comfortable with the listener. Not the deliverer but the listener. If I want to really engage then it would be better to appear helpless or at least needing help. Seeming to be helpless will invoke support – show me how you do that – I’m really struggling with this – I don’t have the answers, what do you think?
The people in the film were engaging with the Blabdroids as if they were human but the Blabdroids have made me realise what being human really means. A work of pure genius!