Humanoid Beer-And-Pizza-Fetching Robot Is Charmingly Retro
More and more companies are starting to use robots for physically delivering goods, but most of the tin tools look cold and unkind—not Fundroid. It was availed via the Software For Artists event in Brooklyn, New York. And what better way for a bot to be test than hitting up a bodega and pizza parlor only to buy and deliver some sustenance to several guests at the nonprofit Pioneer Works (the event hosts)?
Funnie rolls with a retro aesthetic not unlike the loveable bots of the 1980s—e.g., “Kevin,” “Johnny Five,” etc. Probably the most pleasing part of Funnie is it’s not like most delivery machines that simply drop off already-paid-for products—it actually enters an establishment, orders, and pays for whatever it’s programmed to go get. All this in addition to delivery. However, there are no plans to mass produce Funnie—let alone for Funnie to be a public servant—so settle down with those knee-jerking notions of having your own pizza-and-beer-bot buddy. Pioneer Works Director of Technology David Sheinkopf and his team fashioned together Funnie in order to show that robotics aren’t always the cold, scary, killing machines many are made out to be—some can be entertaining, creative and kind.
When taking a closer look at this cute, mechanical kid, it’s pretty obvious Funnie’s not made for missions involving corporate agendas and certainly wasn’t assembled to look sleek and expensive. He seems to have been built out of random bric-a-brac and junkyard gems—think LEGO Technic meets art-school sculpture. Actually, the only human-esque aspect of Funnie is its head, which is literally a lampshade with a couple cut-out holes for eyes—3D-printed peepers. Funnie’s nose knows where to take its entirety, as a webcam serves as the robot’s sniffer. The sight-seeing system scans for QR code-like graphics on the entrances of businesses emblazoned with these images.
Alers would love this endearing innovation, as it can also scoop up a sixer of suds. But don’t send it to stores with stairs—it needs help with hopping up onto elevated areas. The places Funnie popped into knew it was coming, so the owners were ready to assist in any way. But that’s the beauty of Funnie—it needs a human to help guide it via a “Proceed” button back at its base of operations. This interactive trigger enables the machine to make decisions in terms of greeting others and asking for craft beer and cheese-covered pie.
Upon someone pressing the Proceed button, Funnie finds its way inside an establishment. It engages others in a friendly fashion rather than a soulless, cyber unit systematically inquiring about odd information. Funnie’s also a friend of the old-school system, as it lugs around a laptop running on Windows 95. The team took to this software “because [Funnie] needs to buy beer”—as of 2017, Windows 95 is a 22-year-old operating system and is legally old enough to purchase proofed potions in the US.
In terms of actually purchasing products, Funnie has a “money-dispensing unit,” a small letter-sized container with a cover that automatically opens upon Funnie ordering food. While this may be a backward setup, their mechanical mate says, “keep the change” as it closes the box—a guaranteed smile from anyone it engages.
It’s actually important to know Funnie’s not real-world ready. It travels at such slow speeds and needs much outside assistance, so it would not make it on its own. However, that’s not to say Funnie’s not an asset to its inventors. Sheinkopf and his crew see Funnie as an actualized idea of what technology should be—artists and technologists toiling together to turn tech into friendly, approachable innovations. Sheinkopf added that their pizza-getting pro-beer pal’s position-tracking parts will be used for other projects. While Funnie may be done with party favors, it served as an idea of what can happen when creativity meets technology.