A Robot In Need Of Groupies

The music-making, fame-seeking robot Cybraphon will soon join the National Museum of Scotland’s permanent collection. The museum explains:

Inspired by early 19th century inventions such as the nickelodeon self-playing piano, Cybraphon is an interactive version of a mechanical band in a box. Image conscious and emotional, Cybraphon behaves like a real band, obsessively Googling itself every 15 seconds to see how popular it is. The results affect its emotional state (on a scale of ‘delirium’ to ‘desolation’), which in turn affects its playing style. Cybraphon consists of a number of instruments, antique machinery and found objects from junk shops operated by over 60 robotic components, all housed in a modified wardrobe. Volume is controlled by opening and closing the wardrobe door, while its hidden computer ‘brain’ resides in one of the drawers. Using custom software, the ‘brain’ monitors the web and updates Cybraphon’s emotions according to the rate at which its popularity is changing over time.

Katie Collins reports on the social media reaction to the robot:

Cybraphon has its own social media account and regularly tweets updates about its own moods.

As a result, people from all over the world – many of whom will never actually see Cybraphon in all its wood and brass glory – have gone above and beyond to cheer it up when it’s been down in the dumps. Some people have even gone so far as to send it Facebook gifts and write it poems, which obviously has no more effect than would a simple mention. “We ended up with this totally unexpected dialogue between the fans and this machine. The thing that really struck is me how much people want to suspend disbelief about it. They obviously know its not a real sentient being,” says [co-creator Simon] Kirby.

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