Frankie the Documentarian Robot
Maayan Sheleff, Eran Hadas and Gal Eshel (IL)
Frankie is a robot that interviews people, attempting to ‘learn’ what it means to be human. It responds to emotions both with language and eye (camera) movements, creating computer-generated, emotion-inspired videos. The interviews, conducted worldwide, are uploaded online, forming an archive of Frankie’s research.
A curious and persistent robot, Frankie has the cuteness of Wall-E and the edginess of Johnny 5. It is, in fact, a physical version of a chatbot: it ‘understands’ certain words and responds to them both verbally and physically. The ‘brain’ is a cellular phone that includes a self-designed application that controls the conversation. The surveillance camera ‘eyes’ are connected to a robotic neck, which gets orders from the brain.
As a form of automatic documentation, Frankie questions the role of the artist in a possible future of intelligent machines. A deliberately well-exposed surveillance camera, it examines issues such as agency, control, and privacy.
Frankie is in fact a sort of reverse Turing Test, asking whether machines are becoming more humanlike, or humans are becoming more machinelike. It is also a homage to Frankenstein, and a precursor of Eliza, the first 1970s chat bot designed to resemble a psychoanalyst. As such, it is an ironic reflection on the potential mishaps of a robot that is asked to interrogate emotions.
Maayan Sheleff is a curator and artist. She has curated numerous projects in ARTLV, the 1st Tel Aviv Biennial; the Science Museum in Jerusalem; the Herzlyia Museum; International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York; and The Metropolitan Museum for Photography, Tokyo, exploring the mediums of moving image, performance and new media.
Eran Hadas is a software developer, poet and new media artist. He creates hypermedia poetry and develops software-based poetry generators. His fictitious female poet persona, Tzeela Katz, is considered to be the biggest hoax in the history of Hebrew poetry.
Gal Eshel is a software engineer, and creates prototypes for Intel as well as developing his own independent robots.
Since 2014, Frankie has performed in Artport, Tel Aviv; Ars Electronica, Linz; Paraflows Festival, Vienna; Art In Odd Places Festival, New York; Residency Unlimited, New York; Ace Hotel, New York; Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, Connecticut; and Sate Festival, Berlin.frankieproject.com