Russian Engineer Creates a Robot Cemetery in Moscow

Wednesday, 08 November 2017 - 7:45PM
Weird Science
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 - 7:45PM
Russian Engineer Creates a Robot Cemetery in Moscow
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YouTube/Moscow Technological Institute
We have funerals to honor our fellow humans, and occasionally even ones for our pets. But what can be done for our old smartphones, or for our faithful computers, once they bite the dust? Looking forward to the future, how will we be able to fully grieve when our robot friends, who we'll bond with over years, finally give up the ghost and have to be replaced by a newer model?

Saying goodbye can be difficult, and it's never fun to think of our beloved electronics wasting away in a landfill somewhere. For this reason, Olga Budnik of the Muscovite tech hub Phystechpark has set up Moscow's very first robot cemetery.

The inciting incident for this event was fairly harrowing. The Moscow Technological Institute's Department of Robotics has a series of identical robots named Alantim that have been part of various experiments and tests over the past few years. One such Alantim robot saw its life cut tragically short after a run-in with an angry driver resulted in the poor little droid taking a baseball bat to the face.

There's some shakiness regarding how legitimate that video footage is, but that's what Budnik points to, claiming the robots are too expensive to stage the incident. Regardless, the robot did not survive.

In order to properly say goodbye to the fallen Alantim, Budnik organized a funeral service for the robot, which involved a eulogy from one of the bot's identical twins, and the ceremonial lowering of the deceased into a cardboard coffin that remained on display after the service, for well-wishers to pay their respects. You can see the service below.

Apparently, Phystechpark has received plenty of questions from members of the public who've been interested to know whether they can bring their old gadgets and gizmos to retire them in the robot graveyard as well. According to Budnik, this space, set aside for grieving, is an important part of the process of moving on from older technology:

Opening quote
"Alantim was a really good robot. It was supportive, always polite, always happy to see you. You know, like a pet. And [the cemetery] was an idea to bury it like a pet. Not disassemble or carry it to the trash. To say good-bye.

For the moment, the cemetery looks like an art installation. It includes the cardboard box and the dead robot. Initially, we wanted to test the interest of the audience. Now, it is obvious that a robot cemetery is something people like to have nearby. They call Phystechpark, to ask whether they can bring in their gadgets."
Closing quote

While some are clearly treating the cemetery as a recycling plant, hoping to get rid of old batteries, others are taking the matter completely seriously. One heartbreaking request for Phystechpark was the possibility of the cemetery finding space for an old, worn-out toy car, presumably from a child who needed some help saying goodbye to a beloved friend. 

This all may seen a little silly, and there's definitely an element of tongue-in-cheek humor from Budnik in the way that the funeral for Alantim was staged, but the idea of a robot cemetery really does tap into a human need that's going to be more prevalent in years to come.

We're all becoming more and more attached to our electronics, which isn't necessarily a good thing when we consider that companies design these products with a deliberately short lifespan. We need a way to properly gain closure on the death of an old phone, and we need a way to escape the horrid feeling that we've ditched a faithful computer buddy simply because a newer, better model has come along.

That said, Phystechpark's cemetery is designed first and foremost for robots. As time goes on and these little metal machines become more prevalent in our homes, it would make sense for our attachment to them to grow to the point that we love them like pets or family members, at which point we could experience genuine heartbreak, sorrow, and depression at having to deal with the sense of loss.
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