We here at The A.V. Club have seen our fair share of demented robots. Over the years, we’ve found ourselves confronted with inventions ranging in grim design from “chattering, wide-eyed dental school robot” to “crying, bleeding child-shaped medical robot” and the dreams of infinite human feet that preoccupies at least one synthetic version of a mind.
And yet, despite this precedent, we are still in awe of the latest mechanical oddity to capture our attention: A foot-tickling robot called, appropriately enough, TickleFoot.
In the words of a New Scientist article about this freakish invention, TickleFoot is “a machine designed to create the optimal stimuli for tickling feet” that “could serve as a stress reliever by inducing uncontrolled laughter.”
Thanks to the efforts of a University Of Auckland team led by Don Samitha Elvitigala, TickleFoot has been deployed to add a little je ne sais quoi to the experience of wearing a shoe by allowing anyone to slip a 3D-printed insole into their footwear. With a diabolical intent to tickle that in bygone times would have been attributed to a mischievous invisible goblin with a lolling tongue, the TickleFoot employs its “three tickling actuators” to target scientifically determined ticklish spots on the soles.
Elvitigala’s team determined these spots by recruiting 13 people for a study that gauged reactions to foot-tickling. With this precious information in hand, they were able to create the TickleFoot to provide one hour of battery-powered, fully autonomous foot manipulation at a time.
As to why this work has been done, another scientist cited in the article, Marlies Oostland, says that “tickling research can yield new knowledge about the operation of the brain.” Elvitigala, for his part, “believes that the TickleFoot may be useful as a way to provide remote social interaction between couples or as a stress-relieving device.”
How, exactly, willfully subjecting our feet to the unknowable whims of a foot-loving robot is meant to reduce stress is hard to say, but so much time spent on the internet makes us confident in stating that there are plenty of people out there eager to give the TickleFoot a shot regardless.
[via Boing Boing]
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