Teaching robots body language offers common ground for humans and machines

Anyone who’s been up close and personal with an industrial robot will tell you that these machines have an uncanny, almost unsettling presence. Rationally you know that they’re programmed automatons, but when they start moving — huge metal arms swishing through the air with inhuman precision and speed — some primeval part of your brain lights up like a switchboard and calls start pouring in.

“Danger, danger!” they say. “You need to get the fuck away from this predator now.”

Madeline Gannon is someone who delights in this discrepancy. She’s an artist, coder, and designer who, for the past few years, has been exploring how humans relate to robots; programming machines that react to our presence and that use mechanical body language of…

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