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Technology

"Here, Listen to My Underpants": The Robot Psychics of India

DiscoblogBy Valerie RossFebruary 3, 2012 11:26 PM
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As technology marches ever onward, robots have taken on more and more of life's necessary jobs: heavy lifting, precise mechanical manipulations, and, of course, predicting the future. Peppering the fairs and festivals of India, striking in their boldly colored if battered armor, are a fleet of robots that are part fortune cookie, part street-corner psychic. These bots wait in perpetual readiness to dispense their pre-programmed wisdom, and for only 5 rupees or so, the robot's handler will allow you to plug a pair of headphones into its metallic underpants and listen as it tells your fortune. The fortune-telling robots come in a range of shapes and sizes to best suit your fortune-telling needs (there is, in fact, a Flickr pool devoted to the various specimens). One of our favorite designs is the mod/retro combination of a smattering of LED lights and an analog clock, for those mortals bogged down in the worldly concerns of time (below). The robots' wisdom, apparently, comes on prerecorded tapes, audio fortune cookies that foresee the future in Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, and Telgu. Not having heard the tapes ourselves---and not having any languages in common with the robots---we aren't certain about the scope of these predictions. Do the robots whisper ticker symbols and stock market prices of the day after tomorrow? Do they speak of wars and famines, or the mundanities of day-to-day life? We wish we knew. Do you?

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Images: Jitendra Prakash / Reuters; courtesy of Paul Keller / Flickr

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