The Robot Film Festival: Lights, Camera…

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It is said that there are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

Take note, the upcoming Robot Film Festival—the first ever of its kind—will undoubtedly be filled by those of the former proclivity. Starring exclusively robotic actors, and hosted by the 3LD Art and Technology Center in New York City, the RFF will be a premier event featuring movies, robot workshops, an award show and more.

The Festival was founded by social roboticist Heather Knight, also founder of Marilyn Monrobot here in New York City. Her work often explores the relationships between people and machines. No doubtedly, you’ve seen her work, she worked with Synn Labs on the viral OK Go Rube Goldberg video “This Too Shall Pass.”

An MIT Alum, a veteran of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories, and a National Science Foundation Fellow to boot, Heather combines a slick aesthetic with a penchant for interactive robotic media. This usually implies that the interaction is purely human to robot—with the machine reacting to the human. But her work has a way of flipping that around. Prime example: At TED Women last year, she debuted Data, a wise-cracking robot comedian who learns from audience reactions. Here, we are the one’s being poked and prodded; studied and analyzed.

I had a chance to meet Heather at the World Science Festival this past weekend, where she gave a talk at the Cool Jobs event. It was in reference to the somewhat hidden mischievousness of the Ok Go installation towards its human co-stars, that she said,

I’m really interested in where people and machines intersect… it makes you care more about the machine, and if you understand the story behind the machine, it gets a lot more intriguing.

In that way, it only seems perfect that she founded a film festival as a way for robots to express themselves in a similarly growing technological medium.

The Festival itself is a two day event that kicks off Saturday July 16th with a film by none other than Spike Jonze. After the screenings, there will be a red carpet event and the Botskers, a robot award ceremony hosted by Data and a yet-to-be-named emcee.

Are you excited yet? If I didn’t have you at “robots,” then there’s no hope. I am planning to attend, and will provide you all with updates as they come in. You can learn more about the RFF and Heather related events below.


The Robot Film Festival will be the only time you'll get a room full of Daleks to shut the hell up.

The Robot Film Festival takes place July 16th and 17th at the 3LD Art and Technology Center in New York City. Tickets can be purchased at

You can view a replay of the World Science Festival event that featured Heather, Data, and the Rube Goldberg machine here. The event also starred science rapper Baba Brinkman, explorer Mark Moffet, inventor and engineer Nate Ball, and evolutionary paleogeneticist Beth Shapiro.

The event was broadcast online and accompanied by live commentary by Scientific American editor Anna Kuchment and myself.

A quick-fire review of Cool Jobs can be seen here.

Full Disclosure: Maki works for the World Science Festival on their website and blog.



Maki Naro is an artist, incurable geek, and lover of cooking, public radio, small animals, and Blade Runner. He comprises one half of the Sci-ence Webcomic's dynamic duo.

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