Keepon: Research Robot, Art-Bot, or Both?

Describing science as "beautiful" makes perfect sense to me; I believe the physics experiments described in The Prism and the Pendulum are on par with the greatest paintings and sculptures ever conceived!   However, I'm having difficulties classifying the $30,000 robot, Keepon:  Is it a research robot, an art-robot, or both?  On one hand, there is evidence supporting its role in important robotics research.  On the other hand, there are the numerous (many more?) whimsical videos of Keepon dancing to music or traveling the world, such as the "Keepon Goes Seoul-Searching" video to be shown on Friday at the Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) 2009 conference (we show this video below).  Having seen Keepon in person, I can attest to its "cuteness" factor and quality design... but my questions are: "Where is the line between art and research drawn?"  "Does such a line, necessarily, exist?" and "How can HRI researchers and peer-reviewers objectively evaluate important robotics research that also possesses strong artistic components?"  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

For the uninitiated, here is a picture of Keepon with the motors in its stand exposed.  The motors pull on wires to deform, rotate, and tilt the rubber (or silicone?) shell of a body, much like a puppet.


Keepon Robot


So, here is the "Keepon Goes Seoul-Searching" video that will be shown on Friday at HRI 2009.



So, I'm really not a fan of that video... I was much more receptive to Marek's viral video of Keepon dancing to Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On," shown below.



And let us not forget Keepon's research objective(s).



Yep, I still don't know how to classify Keepon, but it sure is an interesting robot.  I would certainly purchase one for my desk at WowWee prices (i.e. sub-$150), but with a $30,000 price tag (ouch!) I don't think I'll own one any time soon.



I just realized the irony in questioning "art" versus "research" immediately after penning a blog post entitled:

Rollin' Justin Coins a New Robot Command: "Dance Like In Pulp Fiction"

I suppose the fundamental distinction is that Justin is (without any ambiguity) a research platform -- that was the one (and only to my knowledge) example of Justin operating in a whimsical fashion -- there is a much larger corpus of work focused on the mathematics and controls of mobile manipulation. 

—Travis Deyle