[SPOT] Robot Odyssey 1. Robot friend with a tail


When the movie was first playing, the audience mistakenly thought that the train on the screen was actually running towards them. Recently, some people mistakenly think that the robot can make judgments and take actions on its own by just looking at the robot’s movements. An artist KeunWook Kim breathes familiarity into such technology that reflects a vivid description; By attaching a tail to the robot dog, SPOT.


A robot that wags its tail to welcome, SPOT
Hyundai Motor Group has been operating the robot SPOT since September last year at the Kia AutoLand Gwangmyeong factory. This is because SPOT can move freely in narrow spaces and stairs that are difficult to move around in industrial sites, and because joints move flexibly, it can cope with accidents that may occur in blind spots. Therefore, it plays the role in monitoring the situation of the factory and preventing safety accidents at the site. It seems as if a dog guarding the house has evolved to become a robot that can save more people’s lives.

However, SPOT is not necessarily a mechanical device that moves around dangerous places for you. As its nickname of the robot dog, it can become a friend by communicating with people. This is why the artist KeunWook Kim attached a tail on SPOT. You can tell without saying it. When it wags its tail happily, you can notice that ‘ah, it is welcoming me!’ The way robots and humans interact can become more diverse in the future.


Tail of emotions
KeunWook Kim’s work is based on Human Computer Interaction (HCI), a science that studies the interaction between humans and computers. Looking at his previous works, he made a plant-type robot and designed the interaction with a machine that mimics the appearance of living creatures. Attaching a wearable device called tail to SPOT can be seen as an extension of this work.

SPOT’s Tailspace is connected by three hexahedral parts and move by a motor. It is a simple composition, but the movement is diverse. It can express a wide spectrum of emotions by freely controlling the speed and direction, such as rotating fast or drooping down.

Artist KeunWook Kim reflected various emotions to each movement of the tail. First, he classified emotions by referring to the schema presented in Russell’s neuroscience research. To put it simply, we set the x-axis to joy and depression, and the y-axis to awakening and sleeping, and arrange emotions that fit the position of the quadrant. For example, if you select joy on the x-axis and awakening on the y-axis, SPOT expresses ‘happiness’.

Of course, it is still too much for SPOT to understand the word happiness and express it through movements. It is KeunWook Kim’s job to build a bridge between emotions and movements. Just as an animation requires a picture for each frame to complete, each movement requires sophisticated commands. The artist adjusted the subtle angles and positions of how fast the motor should move when the robot feels happy and whether to wag its tail left and right with the tail down or back and forth with the tail up.

Talispace which is completed with this elaborate work moves organically with SPOT. When patting SPOT’s back, it sits slowly and wiggles its tail, giving the viewer a feeling that SPOT is alive, as well as evoking feelings of friendliness and cuteness.


Between a tool and a friend
Until now, robots have generally been used to perform limited functions with special purposes, such as coffee-making baristas, food-delivery robots, and robot vacuums commonly used at home. On the other hand, the role of the robot dog SPOT has been expanding to emotional exchanges. Just like the relationship humans have developed with dogs. Now, SPOT is waving at us somewhere in between a tool and a friend. Imagine a puppy that gives coffee and its paw together, isn’t it adorable?


About the Artist
KeunWook Kim discovers new interactions with physical properties through observation and releases them in spaces of everyday life or exhibitions. He is the artist who discovers new interactions with physical properties through observation and releases them in spaces of everyday life or exhibitions. He has been actively working in various fields such as industrial design, interaction design, interactive art, human-computer-interaction research, and concept design. He studied design and HCI at Seoul National University and studied at the University of Arts London. His works were introduced at conferences such as ACM CHI, DIS, IEEE HRI, and participated in interactive art exhibitions in London, Tehran, and Seoul.