Three: spectral entities . Was my unease mirrored in my companions’ uncertain movements? Feld and Terlo swiveled their heads back and forth, alternating glances between each other, me, and either end of the hallway. After a few moments of this Terlo turned to me, “Be at ease. We do not detect any anomalies here; no ‘spectral entities.’ There is just this rodent.” They gestured toward the floor. I glanced down and saw the rat as it scurried by Terlo’s feet and then disappeared into a crack at the base of the wall. Feld turned their attention from the end of the hallway. “Please note: I am unable to explain the appearance of those lights in the distance,” they said and gestured at clustered pinpoints of light that appeared to float in the gloom at the far end of the hallway.
The journey from the Fringe to the region of interest was uneventful. When we finally arrived at the marked location on our map, the derelict structure that awaited us was merely interesting. It’s exterior was utterly lacking any menace and presented only the ravages of the environment. Once inside, however, the atmosphere changed almost immediately— there seemed a charge to the air. My companions informed me that they were detected elevated and fluctuating EM noise. We made our way through a minimalist reception area and set off down the central corridor. The floor was littered with shards of broken glass yet oddly the few windows present were still intact. We picked our way deeper into the structure, glass crunching underfoot. Shadows from our lights formed strange geometries in the angles and recesses of the walls and ceiling. As we walked, we passed the occasional door but so far each one had revealed only an empty, featureless room that contained only dust and stale air. I stepped out of the latest such room and looked at Terlo, “Nothing in that one, either. What were you two talking about?” Both robots faced me, “We did not say anything,” Feld said. “Nor did we pick up any sounds. What are you detecting?” I peered into the gloom at both ends of the hallway, “I heard whispering. If it wasn’t you, then who..?”
One: The Unmapped Areas While documenting my life with robots I would occasionally hear stories about desolate, troublesome areas beyond the boundaries of the robots’ knowledge. The nature of these areas seem to confound any attempts at exploration and reliable documentation. Each time I heard these stories I’d ask the storyteller to take me out to the Unmapped Area so that I could witness with my own senses. But the robots were either unwilling or — more likely — unable to guide me as their own memories were corrupted to some degree by the EM noise that seemed to be present in these wastes far outside where reasonable robots roamed. Eventually I found my guides: Two robots, Feld and Terlo, that had heard of my desire to explore beyond what was known promised to take me out on their next trip. They claimed to be well prepared, and had been to the Fringes, and beyond, several times, and had created an analog map. Their pen-and-paper measure against memory corruption marked the location of a structure they wished to explore.
September 9, 10, and 11. Oregon Convention Center, Portland Oregon. The robots will be set up in Artist Alley, table E11! Come visit and check out all the amazing artists in the Alley, watch the incredible cosplayers, and maybe grab some fab merch. See you there!
“Excuse me, cat, when you are ready I will need you to relocate so that I may sweep this area.” The cat made a few last swipes at its whiskers and then stood. It the ambled down the sidewalk a few meters, sat down, and continued grooming. “Thank you,” the robot said and began briskly sweeping the pavement. The cat looked up for a moment and then returned its attention to its ears. . I documented this scene on the back of a plastic bag given to me on a recent trip by a friendly robot concerned that I may experience some “bias instability or null error with my gyroscope.” (Barf??)
Hello friend. Save for obvious variations in gross surface anatomy, the robots might appear to be indistinguishable from each other. But each one is wonderfully unique, its life story told via scratches and dents on its housings.
(Don’t forget— the freshest content can be found on Instagram @robotoftheday !)
I don’t need to know much about the ebb and flow of robot activity. They can certainly make for varied and interesting conversationalists but I hesitate to dig deeper in an attempt to learn more about their inner lives. In a way they are very much like the cats they keep company with: somewhat inscrutable and revealing only what is necessary in the moment. Still waters may run very deep indeed. (Upon my first use of this metaphor in a conversation I had to go to great lengths to explain that puddles may be still indeed but they weren’t always deep. Unless they were!)
I spotted this brightly-colored robot across the street, a brief bubble of contemplation in the surrounding bustle of the market district. I know some robots employ temporary methods of decoration; it takes real commitment to go with anodizing dyes.
Hanging around outside a rechargé one evening and these two caught my eye. They appeared to be waiting with patience only robots seem to be able to muster. After a time I made a quick pencil sketch to document the scene. Eventually I began to rummage for an ink pen to proceed further when the third member of their party arrived (from an apparently unexpected vector) and all three proceeded to squeeze into the cab of this improbably tiny vehicle. After just a few moments of arranging themselves, the truck, cargo, and three robots hummed away from the curb and disappeared around the corner into the deepening twilight.
We’ve only just turned the corner on solstice and already we’re dreaming of sunny days and abundant energy. There’s a little rechargé vendor that usually parks their cart at a nearby open space that provides plenty of excellent “robot watching.”