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Weird VR project shows you life through the eyes of a frustrated Roomba vacuum

Objective realities

Until Skynet takes over and we start reconsidering our desire to give robots all the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs we don’t want to do, chances are that few of us will spend much time pondering what it’s like to live as a smart vacuum cleaner. Well, unless you’re a collective of artists called Automato, that is!

The Shanghai-based group has created a multi-user installation called “Objective Realities,” in which users are asked to don virtual reality headsets — made to look like a variety of smart objects — and then spend a few minutes looking at life through the eyes of a connected device. The idea of walking around with a Roomba on your head is certainly pretty weird, but strangely neat at the same time.

“The experience is made of two main parts: Custom helmets for each of the objects and a networked virtual home,” Matthieu Cherubini, one of the project’s creators, told Digital Trends. “Once you ‘wear’ one of the objects on your head, you become an everyday thing like a fan or a cleaning robot or a plug, and you will only be able to act on the environment around you as the object you just became. You will be sweeping the floors like a cleaning robot, blowing things around the house like a fan, or moving from plug to plug across the electrical wires.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Of course, in today’s hyper-connected world, you’re not left alone. Since you’re in a networked and connected home, you’re also able to interact with other objects (played by other people). That can lead to some hilarious interactions, such as cleaning robots getting annoyed at fans for making a mess, plugs switching off other objects to save energy, and the like.

“We had a first exhibition in [France] in early February during Interaction18, an international design conference, to gather first reactions,” Saurabh Datta, another member of the team, told Digital Trends. “It’s been pretty amazing to see people enjoying being fans, Roombas, and plugs, and interpret their role of things in the home. Some wanted to destroy and make a mess, some wanted to clean and be very obedient objects, some really enjoyed the peace of the limits of being a fan, some blamed people for a very non-Roomba friendly architecture.”

In the future, the team (which also includes third teammate Simone Rebaudengo) plans to expand the experience by adding more objects and collaborations. Welcome to the art world in 2018!

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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