QMUL PhD designer joins the prestigious residency programme at the Design Museum

A digital artist PhD student at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), has been awarded the 2017 Designers in Residence which will feature her work at the newly opened Design Museum.

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Soomi Park a London-based designer and QMUL Media and Arts Technology PhD Student, is one of four designers to be selected by the Design Museum for its annual Designers in Residence programme. It provides a platform to celebrate new and emerging designers at an early stage in their career.

Embarrassed Robots

Responding to the theme of ‘Support’ for the 2017 programme, Soomi’s project is ‘Embarrassed Robots’. It will be looking at how robots can potentially reflect complex human emotions and what this could mean for the future of artificial intelligence.

Soomi also uses cognitive theories from her PhD for an interdisciplinary approach including interactive installations, film, photography, performance, and wearables.

Soomi said: “I am honoured to be able to take part in the Designers in Residence programme of the Design Museum as well as being able to explore new areas of research, this residency will combine both theory and design.”

She added: “Intelligent machines will play an increasingly important role in supporting our lives. Currently, intelligent machines remain crude - confined to our smartphones, sat-navs, or tasked to build our cars. To fit more seamlessly into our lives, they will have to successfully reflect human emotions.”

Replicating Human Emotion

The project invites public participation using cultural probes such as downloadable geometric cut-outs to create their own perceptions of what an embarrassed robot would look like.

Soomi hopes this will help the public to resonate with her designs and question the way new technology resembles human behaviour, or if it should at all.

The work will also provide useful data for her thesis where she looks at the impact of design on everyday life.

Professor Pat Healey from QMUL's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science and Soomi’s PhD Supervisor, said: “This is a fascinating, innovative project that uses design to raise critical questions about how robots could and should behave.”

He added: “The experience of embarrassment reveals a great deal about the structure of our social lives and about what behaviours we think are appropriate in different situations. Robots will need to understand and produce signals of embarrassment if they are to become truly social agents.”

Soomi will also take part in the Designers in Residence showcase in November and the exhibit will run until March 2018.

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