Cyborg Cabaret Explores Human-Robot Relations
Carnegie Mellon and Community Talents Take Stage
By Robotics Trends' News Sources - Filed Apr 18, 2012

Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburg—Humans and robots will share the stage of the North Side’s New Hazlett Theater at 8 p.m., Friday, April 27, for the Cyborg Cabaret, a variety show designed to make the audience laugh hard and think harder about how technology is changing society.

The interdisciplinary show will feature talents from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, School of Art, Entertainment Technology Center and the broader Pittsburgh community, including Assemble, VIA and Hack Pittsburgh.

“The show will be about one-third technology, one-third funny and one-third thought-provoking,” said Heather Knight, a CMU Ph.D. student in robotics. Knight co-hosts the cabaret with cyborg musician and Master of Fine Arts graduate student Dan Wilcox, aka robotcowboy, and Data, the stand-up comedian robot. Wilcox and Knight won the 2011 School of Art Interdisciplinary Award and have been collaborating during the past year with the local community to put the cabaret together.

Cyborgs are a combination of people and machine, but Knight said she and Wilcox sought to make the show about much more than robots. “It’s about the relationship between society and technology, about our expectations for what technology might do for and to us,” she explained. “We want to explore the ways this has worked out and the ways it hasn’t.”

Among the acts are a Robot Arm Quartet, a group of robotic arms assembled by Golan Levin, director of CMU’s Studio for Creative Inquiry, that perform as a barbershop quartet; an exploration by Knight of what makes robots come alive that features choreography by several robots from Professor Manuela Veloso’s research lab, known as Crebots; and Cyborlesque, a burlesque performance by graduating senior fine arts student Julia Cahill in which human and machine parts are revealed — or are they?

Wilcox will direct the Robot Rumble, which pits an unlikely array of real-life robots, including the CMU Crusher, Honda ASIMO, Boston Dynamics BigDog and the Google Self-driving Car against each other in one-on-one WWE-style wrestling matches.

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