There is nothing on the floor of the case except for a jumble of building blocks, each marked distinctively with an alphabetic symbol. A glinting metallic arm swings around from one side of the case to another, humming and crooning as it’s dainty grip reorganizes the blocks. This one goes here. That one goes there. The arm continues sweeping block letters around until I recognize my own name, the one I told the robot to know.

This interaction occurred at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA. I happened to be in the area with a group of Interns from the Humboldt State University Library for a special collections delivery, and this was one of our elected side trips.

This is my favorite interaction because it was simple, but it brought up so many meaningful questions about how humans relate to technology. A flooding of Asimovian relationships becoming reality right before my eyes. It spelled my name because another human programmed it to ask for my name value and display that visually with the blocks. I found myself pondering all of the possible ways I could program this arm beyond the building blocks, now that I realized it could be programmed to fit my identity.

This was not the only interaction I enjoyed. There was also an eerie crowdsourced jumble of museum visitor faces projected onto a wall, and a drawing arm that would scan an image of your face and draw it out with a single line.

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It got me pondering on our relationship with heritage as well. It is important to be mindful not only of which heritage is being shared but also how it is being shared.  The ability to have a bit of control of the outcome of this exhibit was empowering, and I remember that feeling more than anything.

Have you ever been to the Tech Museum before? What was your experience like?

(Note: This blog was written as part of my blogging carnival “Engaging with Interactive Exhibits and Interactions” You can still submit a post through January 30, for more details visit the post here!)

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