The Applause Machine
Simone Giertz, often called “the queen of shitty robots” is a creator, inventor, entertainer, and Youtuber that deals in the realm of robotics. One of her most recent pieces is The Applause Machine. As she states in her video for the piece:
“I got the idea when I was at a conference, and, I just had to clap my hands a lot. My poor developer hands just started hurting after sometime. So I thought, ‘there must be a better way!’” (Giertz, Simone. 2016. Applause Machine VLOG.)
The resulting machine was crafted from kitchen tongs, two “creepy plastic right hands”, and a few motors (Giertz, Simone. 2016. Applause Machine VLOG). The machine allows you to adjust your clapping speed with a slider on the front, and the scale goes from “snarky slow clap” to “breakneck speed”. (Giertz, Simone. 2016. Applause Machine VLOG)
Giertz creates things that are arguably as useless as half of the technological inventions on the market, but transparently so in a way that makes us laugh. She makes things because she can, for the joy of doing so and inspiring others, not necessarily to convey a message. Yet, that doesn’t mean her work is without purpose. Whether intentionally or not, her artwork is smartly critical of the relationship between man and machine. It capitalizes on the absurdity of the parts of our lives we attempt to mechanize, and the idea that there is always “a better way”. She manages to solve non-issues in a terrible way, and shows that maybe, we can’t always engineer our way out of problems.
“The point is, time and again, Simone creates delightful inventions that combine common Maker components… to build things I’ve never seen before. At a time when everyone’s running out to build some internet connected appliance of the future... Simone keeps it fun with unexpected, inspiring (and often dangerous) gizmos that make me laugh. It’s the part of the Maker spirit that I most enjoy.” (Bell, Donald. 2016. This Goofy Clapping Robot Gives Round After Round of Applause)
The Applause Machine is a fairly standard addition to Giertz’s arsenal. While all of her robots have different poorly fulfilled functions, they all share the commonality of not really solving a problem. Take the Breakfast Bot for example. In the video for the robot, it sloppily pours cereal before it throws the box on the floor, then pours milk all over the table and spoons from an empty bowl into Simone’s mouth. All of her robots have the same absurd, whimsical characteristics to them, and all of them have to do a horrible job at what they are doing, or fulfill an extraneous purpose.
As for comparable pieces of art, PplKpr was the first one that came to mind. As stated by their website,
“pplkpr is an app that tracks, analyzes, and auto-manages your relationships. Using a smartwatch, pplkpr monitors your physical and emotional response to the people around you, and optimizes your social life accordingly” (McCarthy, Lauren. 2016. Pplkpr.com)
While arguably more technologically advanced, pplkpr addresses the same general concepts that The Applause Machine does. It attempts to outsource human activities to technology in a way that seems absurd and makes the viewer question the necessity of it. These pieces pull into question just how far we will take technology, and force us to question what role it will play in the future.
Simone Giertz’s Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3KEoMzNz8eYnwBC34RaKCQ
Interview on Embedded.fm: http://embedded.fm/episodes/136