Going out in public to gather donations from random passers-by has always been very difficult, but the DON-8r robot may be the way to change this. Pedestrians are often already exposed to a number of people in need who are requesting spare change and there’s also no way to know for sure that the people collecting donations for a cause are legitimate or scammers. Some are likely annoyed by the practice in general, perhaps due to the bell-ringing Salvation Army Santas during the holidays. Whatever the reason that random people might be reluctant to contribute a small (or large) amount of money toward a cause, the DON-8r robot by Tim Pryde is an attempt to elicit a different response.
This adorable, lumpy-headed robot is actually powered by coin donations. According to the press release, “DON-8r navigates obstacles as it moves about on a random path for a set length of time. It then waves its flag, calls for assistance and pulses with light until it receives another donation from another passer-by. Always polite, DON-8r thanks the generosity and repeats its journey.” As you can see in the video, many people are instantly intrigued by the robot and end up inserting coins to see how it will respond. The audio is dubbed over, so it’s hard to tell how clearly the robot can actually be heard in a crowd, but it seems to say “Hello?” when stuck in place and waiting for donations, “Thank you,” when coins are inserted and it begins moving again, and “Ow!” when it bumps into something or is otherwise jolted in some way.
Of course, there are also downsides to this method. One critical one would be the theft or damage of the robot, necessitating at least one person on-site to chaperone the DON-8r from afar. Over time, the cuteness of the robot could turn into something annoying or, at the very least, the robot could lose its novelty and become less effective. Seeing one roaming around every couple blocks would contribute to that sort of saturation. Lastly, while people seem to have a strange trust for random, cute robots, there’s no way to tell where the donations will go or if one is being scammed entirely, the only available information likely being written on the robot or its flag. Regardless, it’s a fun new idea and an interesting social experiment, made better by the fact that it will gather donations for important causes whether it turns out to be a simple fad or something more enduring. For a similar idea, check out the DONA Begging Robot, or to see how robots are helping people more directly, don’t miss the TALON Rescuer.