A team of Korean researchers has created an “urban donation motivating robot” called DONA that looks like a robotic version of Little Red Riding Hood. The robot began life in a 72 hour workshop in Seoul, where a multidisciplinary team including members of the MIT Media Lab collaborated on simple projects by combining their expertise in engineering, industrial design, human computer interaction, and the social sciences. Given the time limit, DONA’s first phase was little more than a roving box with a cup that would shake from side to side. Later that year, a cute little doll was added that could tilt its head to warm the hearts of the indifferent masses.
The third version is the most sophisticated yet; it actually interacts with people as they donate money. Ultrasonic range finders located just above the donation box detect when somebody moves in to drop a donation, and DONA reacts by bowing, blinking, waving, and wiggling its arms with gratitude. Its neck has much better articulation than the doll’s, and it can now move its arms and hands separately.
As you’ll see in the following video, DONA has no trouble attracting throngs of generous onlookers, which may come as a bit of a shock to real panhandlers. And DONA isn’t just pocketing the money people donate; the project has a partnership with “Save The Children”. Any donations collected during public demonstrations go to children’s education in the Ivory Coast. Cool robots and charitable causes – it’s a win-win!
The robot was the work of Min Su Kim and Dong Min Park (Hong Ik University), Byung Keun Cha (LG electronics), Sae Mee Lee (Yonsei University), Sonya Kwak (KAIST), and Min Kyung Lee (Carnegie Mellon University). Videos of the project’s earlier phases, and a few more snapshots follow after the break.
Min Su Kim