i went to Glastonbury Festival this year, and in amongst the various bits of music, artwork, craft areas and marketplaces, i came across one of my favourite things i saw this summer. an actual adult sized robot called Sparky, that walked (well, it kind of rolled about on wheels), talked and interacted with an audience of kids and adults. i’ve not seen anything quite like it, and things like that are often the kind of thing i saw as a kid featured on Tomorrow’s World. even today, i’d be impressed to see something quite so sophisticated on one of those gadget programs, so i was slightly taken aback to find something like this rolling about a field in Somerset.

the robot itself has that classic old school look, as if it was put together by some mad inventor out of spare parts from around the house (actually not too far from the truth! Sparky is made from recycled household objects), and he shoots water from his hand, as well as being quite capable of nodding, waving and spinning round. the most impressive thing is that at first Sparky appears to be completely autonomous, independent of any creator or controller. he certainly had most of the kids enraptured as he reacted to their behaviour and even had some running away in fear (though this may have been because of the water he squirted at them!). hopefully he’s got a whole new generation of children cowering in fear of the coming robot invasion. it was only after a good long while that we managed to spot Sparky’s handler, posing as an onlooker, smartly controlling the bot from behind his back, with what looked like an iPhone hooked up to a remote control. very impressive. anyway, i’ve been checking out Sparky’s website and he’s available for gigs, so take a look. you never know when you might need to hire a robot…
edit: thanks to my mate Jenny whose pictures i’ve nicked!

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