Toying with the Singularity: AI, Automata and Imagination in Play with Robots and Virtual Pets
To grasp the emerging possibilities of new developments in the Internet of Toys, paying critical attention to the layered relationships of material technology and intangible imagination is needed. This chapter explores children’s imaginative and playful engagement with toys that demonstrate AI or autonomous behaviour (here robots and virtual pets). It takes a workshop on the design of a new robotic gaming platform as a central case study. Paying close descriptive and analytical attention to moments of interaction with such toys is essential to fully grasp the complex relationships between global technological imaginaries—in this case of AI and artificial life—and the material and embodied workings of imagination in play.
KeywordsRobots AI Imaginative play Technological imaginary Computer games
The robot workshop was part of a project with Reach Robotics to prototype their Mecha Monsters toy (now marketed as MekaMon) and was funded by REACT, a Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Industries. REACT ran from 2012 to 2016 and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK: http://www.react-hub.org.uk/. Thanks to Silas Adekunle, CEO of Reach Robotics, for his enthusiastic cooperation; and many thanks to Penny Giddings for setting up, planning and running the workshop.
- Allison, A. (2006). Millenial monsters: Japanese toys and the global imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Apperley, T., & Heber, N. (2015). Capitalizing on emotions: Digital pets and the natural user interface. In J. Enevold & E. Macallum-Stewart (Eds.), Game love: Essays on play and affection (pp. 149–161). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.Google Scholar
- Du Gay, P., Hall, S., Janes, L., Mackay, H., & Negus, K. (1997). Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Giddings, S. (2007). Playing with nonhumans: Digital games as technocultural form. In S. de Castell & J. Jensen (Eds.), Worlds in play: International perspectives on digital games research (pp. 115–128). Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Giddings, S. (2014a). Gameworlds: Virtual media and children’s everyday play . New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
- Giddings, S. (2014b). Bright bricks, dark play: On the impossibility of studying LEGO. In M. J. P. Wolf (Ed.), LEGO studies: Examining the building blocks of a transmedia phenomenon (pp. 241–267). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Haraway, D. (1990). A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s. In L. J. Nicholson (Ed.), Feminism/postmodernism (pp. 190–234). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hjarvard, S. (2004). From bricks to bytes: The mediatization of a global toy industry. In I. Bondebjerg & P. Golding (Eds.), European culture and the media (pp. 43–64). Bristol, UK: Intellect.Google Scholar
- Kline, S. (1993). Out of the garden: Toys and children’s culture in the age of TV marketing. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
- Lister, M., Dovey, J., Giddings, S., Grant, I., & Kelly, K. (2009). New media: A critical introduction (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Marsh, J. (2017). The internet of toys: A posthuman and multimodal analysis of connected play. Teachers College Record, 119(2). Retrieved from http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/113557/.
- Opie, I., Opie, P., & Alderson, B. (1989). A treasury of childhood: Books, toys, and games from the Opie collection. London: Pavilion Books.Google Scholar
- Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguity of play . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Turkle, S. (1984). The second self: Computers and the human spirit. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar