Tweets Rouse Moody Robot

Intel researcher Lucas Ainsworth with Data Monster robot

Maker robot reacts to Twitter and motion input.

Send a tweet to Data Monster if you dare — the robot has been known to respond violently to Twitter. Data monster doesn’t only react to social media, the 2-foot tall, wood and metal robot can convert other data input into gestures, actions and motions, according to an Intel researcher.

Data Monster maker robot

Looking like a prehistoric talon of a claw, Data Monster expresses itself via movements, gestures and excited twitches based on Internet data and localized movement.

Data Monster was designed to “abstractly look at data and assign meaning to the data,” said Lucas Ainsworth, an Intel research scientist who developed the robot from a DIY robotics kit using the open source Intel Galileo computing board. It can respond to data input or sense physical motion.

The custom robot, the first Ainsworth has built, can track hand movements using three infrared sensors. Its wooden robotic arm, controlled by servo motors, moves more actively when the sensors detect motion and becomes more lethargic as the motion subsides. Motion dampeners physically control the speed.

Data Monster connects to the Internet using a standard laptop Wi-Fi card, allowing it to scan social networks or online data sources. When it detects a tweet with the word “datamonster,” its arm moves without motion damping, mimicking agitation, offering an example of how mood can translate into physical gesture. People can customize other social media or other triggers within the robot’s open source code.

“Every [Data Monster] that you build behaves differently, depending on who builds it,” said Ainsworth. “Anyone who builds it can quickly make it their own.”

“While Linux tinkering can greatly expand the capability of the Galileo for this project, we wanted to maximize the accessibility for beginners,” Ainsworth said.
The Data Monster development kit, including code and design files, is available for Before Data Monster became a snake-like, jittery robot, it was an iPhone app with an animated monster that changed moods based on what was trending on Twitter. Moving it from a software application to a physical robot “is so much more captivating — it draws people in,” said Ainsworth.