Machine learning and AI is transforming our products to become more knowledgeable, foreseeing and convenient, but is more automation in our lives really what we want? At Studio PLAYFOOL we wanted to flip this perception on its head, applying machine learning not as a means to make our devices smarter but as an excuse to make them more childlike. Through this we emphasise teaching AI as a way to explore how our relationship with technology can be positively disrupted. With this mindset we created Lulu, the little lamp that learns.
At first, Lulu may seem a little primitive; she doesn’t understand the difference between ‘on’ and ‘off’ and so her switch doesn’t work. Instead, like a creature curious with their surroundings, all she can do is mimic the light around her, lighting up when it’s bright and dimming down when it’s dark. However, through machine learning Lulu can be taught to work properly and invites the user to play and interact with her to do so.
To teach Lulu how to turn on, you need to bring her to a bright place and show her what ‘on’ means. Similarly, to teach Lulu to turn off, you need to bring her to a dark place and show her what ‘off’ means. Whenever you want Lulu to learn, you simply need to pull her little red tail, triggering her to start learning, in which she associates the surrounding light with the position of her switch. Whether you’re bringing her outside or hiding her in a cupboard, how bright Lulu shines depends entirely on how you teach her. As a result, Lulu creates a unique dialogue between herself and the user.
Lulu demonstrates how machine learning can be used to positively change the way we treat our possessions. By personifying objects with this basic intelligence we can make them feel more like part of the family. For example, the unique dynamic that results from spending time and playing with Lulu can make the user more empathetic towards her. In addition, we believe that our approach with Lulu gives users a new way to digest machine learning in a much more participatory and memorable way, acting as an effective communication tool. We believe this is important when envisioning a future in which machine learning and AI co-exists with us in the household.
Lulu utilises machine learning software which handles her learning processes. When creating Lulu’s form, we focused on a playful, simple yet distinct design made to encourage both children and adults to interact with her.