Seldon the Robot's Rise to Fame
Seldon the Robot, whose masterful rendition of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" has captivated the audiences of multiple robotics competitions, has spent a day in a new role - that of a civil servant. Dressed in a white shirt, a jacket and tie, he went to a meeting with the Governor of Leningrad Oblast Alexander Drozdenko and Chairman of the Regional Parliament, Sergey Bebenin. On 20 October, Seldon changed the tune - instead of hit songs, he vocalized the outline for the Oblast's 2018 budget. The robot, which was built by school students at ITMO’s Robotics Center was all over the news this week and became a star on the “Evening Urgant” late-night show. The fame hasn’t gotten to its head, as Igor Lositsky, the project’s supervisor noted.
The antropomorphic robot’s face is made up of Lego pieces, his crazy dreadlocks - from red wires; his torso was taken from a mannequin, he has huge plastic ears and two burning eyes. It was designed and programmed by a team of school students at ITMO University, under the guidance of Igor Lositsky and Evgeny Zavarin from the Department of Computer Science and Control Systems. In total, the project involved six school students: Levon Pogosov, Andrew Lakomkin, Mikhail Volkov, Daniil Nechaev, Boris Frolikov, Gleb Zagarskiy, all students from schools in and around St. Petersburg.
The team with Seldon the Robot and Igor Lositsky at the Governor’s residence.
Once you see the robot, you’ll never forget it. Seldon has remarkable talents: he plays the ukulele and sings just like a real person, expressing certain “facial expressions” and movements. He has already shown off these capabilities at several national and international robotics competitions. Seldon took first place at the national stage of the RoboCup Russian Open-2017 competition (Tomsk), and won the jury award for junior teams at RoboCup OnStage, at the international stage of the RoboCup-2017 competition (Japan). The robot is constantly improving and likes to communicate with people, participating in events for ITMO University applicants and other city events. Among other things, he is preparing to speak at the RoboCup Asia-Pacific event in Thailand in December.
Working in the government was not in Seldon’s career plan, shared Igor Lositsky. The Governor of Leningrad Oblast’s press service approached ITMO University asking whether there might be a robot here.
"Basically, they wanted to show off a Russian robot. I explained that our robot is not quite suitable for government work. But they looked at Seldon and liked him. We were interested, too: robots in government positions are a relevant topic right now. So we went along with it.," – shared Igor Lositsky in an interview (link in Russian) for the newspaper “Paperpaper.ru”
In preparation for the visit, an outline for Leningrad Oblast’s budget for 2018 was uploaded into Seldon, and he was taught to move like a politician, and less like a musician.
The video of Seldon’s live performance was published on Aleksandr Drozdenko’s YouTube channel, and soon this news was picked up by dozens of media outlets, including RIA Novosti, TV Rain, Lenta.ru and others. It even got attention from the host of the popular Russian late-night show "Evening Urgant". In his opening monologue, host Ivan Urgant played matchmaker, suggesting Seldon get together with the show's guest from last week – the lifelike robot-assistant Sophia.
“For a robot, such popularity can only be good. It’s a worthy project, assembled by talented school students, and all this hype around him is really encouraging. We have a lot of plans in the future for improving it. We want to make friends for Seldon in his image and likeness, and together they can form a musical band. It’s possible that Seldon will soon prepare a surprise for the robot Sophia. But I don’t want to spoil anything yet” shared Igor Lositsky.
Seldon has recently acquired a “brain”, an IntelNuc computing unit, which makes it possible for the robot to have technical vision. Whereas before it could play music, sing and answer questions, now its abilities will expand. He will be able to see objects around him and maybe even learn to take selfies with people.