Italian student 3D prints Quasi: a heart in a jar that can get seriously angry with you

2015-04-01
Italian student 3D prints Quasi: a heart in a jar that can get seriously angry with you

We come across a lot of cool 3D printed robots all the time. While most can perform very basic tasks such as grabbing something from the table or walking from point A to point B, there are also those that are capable of much more thanks to serious high quality sensors or cameras. But Italian student and designer Enrica Beccalli, who currently studies design at Parsons in New York, has made something truly remarkable: a 3D printed heart in a jar that can get seriously angry with you.

It’s called Quasi (as in a quasi-object, quasi-human), and this 3D printed robot is programmed to love humans. Well, it loves them when you’re around it. As soon as you leave the room, it gets seriously pissed off and sends you angry or insulting emails until you return. It sounds a bit like an unnatural robot, as people generally like constructions that are programmed assist you or to do jobs you don’t like. They give you an aggrandized sense of self-importance. But Quasi is exactly the opposite, as it all revolves around itself. While not serving a direct function, it does make you think twice about what robots are and of course about what their potential is.

 

It’s designer Enrica Beccalli is currently studying Design and Technology at Parsons in New York City, having previously completed a BFA in industrial design and an MFA in systems design at ISIA Roma in Italy. Fascinated by interaction between the individual and collective, her projects are all about emotional connections and behaviour.

Quasi falls right in that pattern, and grew out of a mistake. "I was working on a puppet that could send you information by email if someone is in your room. Just to have fun, I programmed the sensor in a way that the email sent contained this object: 'I SEE HUMANS, please come back home' followed by a series of random fun messages," Enrica explains to 3ders.org. "While I was testing the sensor, I went to grab a coffee, and I accidentally left the sensor in my classroom without turning it off. My phone started to go crazy for the amount of emails I was receiving since the sensor was detecting a lot of people."

This inspired her to further investigate the relations between humans and objects together with her friend Roula Gholmieh. They soon realized that robots and computers are programmed to apologize when something goes wrong. "We make yesmachines/objects to feed our ego, and this [Quasi] project investigates what could happen if objects start to act like humans, and get pissed if you don’t behave as they want." This way, it effectively turns the world upside down.

While the concept sounds complicated, there’s actually a very simple mechanism behind it. The heart contains an infrared sensor that detects the presence of people in the room. ‘The sensor is connected to an Arduino Yun. Quasi uses Node and JavaScript to run and pull data from the internet,’ Enrica explains. This build enables Quasi is able to analyse angry hashtags and keywords on Twitter, which are formed into angry messages and are sent to your inbox whenever no one is around.

 

3D printing proved to be a perfect technology for storing the sensor, as Enrica and Roula felt that a heart was the perfect vessel for anger. "What shape can communicate the role of this object and which metaphor? The idea of making a human organ found both of us unanimous and we started to make our own prototype. A surrogate of a significant other. A modern prosthesis for human relationship. A 3D printable love," Enrica explains to us. The heart itself was 3D printed on a FlashForge 3D printer in White ABS, and stored in a jar to keep it safe from harm.

Inspired by their fiery heart, Enrica and Roula have already chosen a follow up project: "We want to explore social media analytics tools to make the object learn about you and act according to your character. Just like a person." Just imagine what we could learn from a 3D printed robot that that gets angry at us for making the same mistakes over and over again.

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