Monday, June 5, 2017

Featuring robots

Well, blog. It has been a little while.

My intention was to work on write-ups for all of last week on Saturday night... but I'm sure you heard on the news what occurred and why my plans were derailed with spending a few hours contacting students and corresponding with colleagues from our headquarters. Luckily, all of our students and employees are safe and accounted for. Unfortunately, it is not the first time I have had to work in crisis management of that sort to confirm safety of participants and as much as I hope it is the last, it is an unpredictable world we live in. But, as the British have taught us time and time again, keep calm and carry on.

Going back to last Tuesday, it was a fairly laid back day for me. After an early morning of taking a group to King's Cross Station to ensure they made their train to Hogwarts Edinburgh, I met up with another former university friend. Rosie and I met during my 4th year of college when she was beginning her post-graduate degree and I was a Peer Guide helping newcomers to settle in to the city and university. We bonded at the local indie rock night at the student union's nightclub and we were both active participants in the student radio station, Storm FM.

We met in Camden for lunch at the Kerb food market because there was mac & cheese place I wanted to try, The Mac Factory. 

La Med Babe: Basil pesto, bocconcini, confit tomato
 After wandering the market a bit, we walked south, sat in Regents Park for a bit, had a drink, and dodged the crowds of Oxford Street, one of the big shopping areas of London. We walked mainly without purposes, just enjoying catching up and reminiscing about various events from college.

I enjoyed some of the murals in Camden that I hadn't seen yet.


On Wednesday I texted Cat to see if she wanted to explore and she suggested that we try Bubblewrap Waffles, which are all the craze at the moment. The queue took 40 minutes and poor Tom, who had joined us for his lunch break, barely had time to take a few bites before he had to head back to the office.

Do not put on your head or wear as a bra
The waffles had big air pockets and were wrapped into cones and filled with a variety of toppings. I had dark chocolate gelato, pecans, fudge, salted caramel sauce, and sweetened condensed milk drizzle. I think the waffles could be pretty awesome as well if you had them flat but used an icing tip to fill each of the bubbles with cream or sauces.

Next I asked if she wanted to check out some of the events of Merge Festival and we headed to the Southwark area to an old firehouse. Upon first look, it seemed a little deserted and I warned her that I didn't know much about the event, just that I had seen it discussed online and wanted to check it out. Luckily, she was game for it and said she sometimes has to tell people she brings to things the same speech.

As we rounded a corner, we saw a sign for the festival to let us know we were in the right place and after signing a waiver, we headed up the stairs to the second floor, laughing at posters that greeted us along the way.


At the top of the stairs, we filled out questionnaires that asked things such as "What do you feel good about?" "What do you feel scared of?" and "What disappoints you?"
After completing our questionnaires, we were able to enter the main event - Drive Dead Slow: Dodgems of the Mind
Dodgems = bumper cars

Our questionnaires were used to determine which dodgem would be best for our personality because they were each programmed to talk to you. Then you were given 5 minutes to drive through the art activation - through a tunnel of lights into a large room with many screens hanging above you with faces that would speak to you, then out this mouth

I think we had a little too much fun, giggling the entire time. The five minutes went by surprisingly quick.

From there we walked a few minutes to the Confessions project which had several confession booths with wooden pieces where you could write a confession and drop it in a box, for them to later hang on the outside of the booths.

Next, we headed over to the Machine Studies installation, which was a robotic art piece that had a couple of sections.

First, we watched a robot classroom of 20 robots learning from their teacher robot with each displaying different traits that affected their learning. Some were left handed, some right. Some completed tasks faster than others. Some seemed more confused. It was interesting how you felt a sense of personality from them.

 If you're a Facebook friend, check out my videos to see them in action.

Next, we watched a robot attempting to draw a still life and checked out previous attempts by it.


Lastly, there were three robots working to draw portraits of actual people who had booked a time slot. Unfortunately there were no time slots left when we found out about it, to try to come back later to have our portraits drawn.



After the robots, I accompanied Cat to her flat and met Bobbin to try to have a bit of kitty cuddle time. When Tom got off work, we met him for dinner at a local place called Dirty Burger, next to Vauxhall Station, and we all tried the vegetarian beet burgers. Cat pointed out the MI6 building to me, which I only knew from one of the recent James Bond films. When the news of the attacks broke on Saturday and an incident in Vauxhall started to be reported, my mind went back to this evening and due to the type of security in the area I thought it would be weird to try to commit something there unless it was a massive scale incident. Although it did turn out to be a stabbing, it was unrelated to what happened at London Bridge/Borough.

For the evening we headed over to the Science Museum which hosts an adults only night on the last Wednesday of each month. Currently the main temporary exhibit is about robots, so the night was focused on robots. We enjoyed some robot themed cocktails, were able to screen print our own robot posters, could build light-up robot heads, and meet a couple of robots.
pop rocks on the rim


This is Pepper

As I've mentioned previously, Cat takes way better photos, so check out some great ones here and here.

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