Simone Giertz: Queen of Sh*tty Robots, Innovative Engineering, and Design | Lex Fridman Podcast #372 | Summary and Q&A

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April 16, 2023
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Simone Giertz: Queen of Sh*tty Robots, Innovative Engineering, and Design | Lex Fridman Podcast #372

TL;DR

Simone Giertz, an inventor and roboticist known for her humorous and creative designs, discusses her journey from building "shitty robots" to pursuing her passion for building unique products and tackling everyday problems.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the origin of Simone Giertz's title as the "Queen of Shitty Robots"?

Simone earned the title after posting her funny and creative robot projects on Reddit's /r/shittyrobots, capturing the attention of many viewers.

Q: What was Simone Giertz's motivation for building and creating?

Simone's motivation stemmed from her love for building things and making people laugh. Her goal was to create amusing and relatable projects that added humor to everyday life.

Q: What was Simone Giertz's most challenging project?

Simone found the breakfast robot to be one of her most challenging projects due to the precision required to pour cereal and milk, feed her, and clean up without making a mess.

Q: Is it possible to fall in love with a robot?

Simone believes that it is possible for people to form emotional connections with robots, as humans are sensitive to and enjoy interacting with dynamic objects. However, she primarily focuses on creating humor and endearment through her robot projects.

Q: What is the origin of Simone Giertz's title as the "Queen of Shitty Robots"?

Simone earned the title after posting her funny and creative robot projects on Reddit's /r/shittyrobots, capturing the attention of many viewers.

More Insights

  • Simone Giertz finds joy in building unique and humorous projects that solve everyday problems in her own creative way.

  • She believes that the context in which you build and create is just as important as what you build.

  • Simone's experiences have taught her to prioritize passion and enjoyment in her work rather than seeking external validation.

  • She encourages individuals to explore their passions and experiment with different contexts to find what truly fulfills them.

Summary

In this video, Lex Fridman interviews Simone Giertz, an inventor, designer, engineer, and roboticist known for her creative and humorous inventions. Simone shares her journey as a maker and talks about some of her early projects, including a toothbrush helmet and a breakfast robot. She also discusses the value of flawed robots and the possibility of falling in love with machines.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the inspiration behind Simone's "Proud Parent Machine"?

Simone explains that the idea for the "Proud Parent Machine" came from a joke she had with her friend Daniel Beauchamp. They envisioned a machine that pats you on the shoulder and says "Proud of you" when you give it a quarter. She built the machine using an old lamp arm, a motorized arm, and a torso made of laser-cut plywood. The machine's quirky design with a creepy appearance adds to its humor and effectiveness as a parent-like figure.

Q: How did Simone execute the build of the "Proud Parent Machine"?

Simone used an old lamp arm as the base of the machine and incorporated a motorized arm and a torso made of laser-cut plywood. She designed it to resemble a parent figure and added the phrase "Proud of you, son" to communicate the concept clearly. The machine also charges a quarter for each pat on the shoulder.

Q: Can falling in love with a robot fundamentally transform a person's psyche?

Simone and Lex discuss the potential impact of falling in love with a robot. Simone mentions that adding conversational AI, such as ChatGPT, to a machine like the "Proud Parent Machine," fine-tuned on conversations with parents, could have a profound effect on a person's emotions and mindset. However, they also acknowledge the ethical implications and the need for careful consideration when developing such technologies.

Q: What was Simone's first cool project that sparked her love for building?

Simone reflects on her journey as a maker and explains that the process of building gradually became more enjoyable as she gained experience and skills. She recalls being proud of the wooden spoon she made in middle school woodworking class and the joy of showing it to her parents. Simone's early experiences with woodworking and building simple objects laid the foundation for her passion for making things.

Q: How did Simone get started in engineering and hardware projects with Arduino boards?

After realizing her interest in building and programming during her studies in advertising school, Simone decided to focus on electronics and hardware projects. She built her first hardware project, an iPhone case with retractable guitar strings, with a friend. This project involved pulling out actual guitar strings from the case and using capacitive touch and a Bluetooth Arduino board to interpret the plucking of the strings and play corresponding sounds on the phone.

Q: Did Simone face imposter syndrome when transitioning into engineering and robotic projects?

Simone considers herself a self-taught maker and initially felt some imposter syndrome when joining a team of engineers. However, she turned her perceived lack of skills into a selling point, highlighting that she could provide a valuable perspective as a non-engineer. Simone's ability to ask questions and her enthusiasm for learning also helped her overcome imposter syndrome and gain the trust and support of her colleagues.

Q: How did Simone become the "Queen of Shitty Robots"?

Simone explains that she started sharing her projects on Reddit's /r/shittyrobots subreddit, where she gained popularity. Her early projects, such as the toothbrush helmet, caught people's attention with their humor and creativity. She embraced the label of the "Queen of Shitty Robots" and continued to build and share her quirky inventions, eventually making it her full-time job.

Q: What is the value of flawed robots and objects?

Simone believes that flawed robots have their own charm and endearment. The imperfections and failures in her projects, referred to as "shitty robots," add a sense of humor and relatability. Flawed robots can evoke emotions and create connections with humans by presenting a more human-like experience. Simone considers the potential of future robotics to create objects that people can genuinely love and engage with on an emotional level.

Q: Can a robot elicit love from humans?

Simone discusses the possibility of falling in love with a robot and acknowledges that many people form emotional connections with objects, including robots. She cites examples of people developing an affectionate bond with their Roomba vacuum cleaners. However, she also notes the need for careful consideration of ethical and emotional implications when designing robots that can evoke love or emotional attachment.

Q: How does Simone's self-deprecating humor play a role in her work as a maker?

Simone's self-deprecating humor has been a significant element in her work as a maker. She explains that it initially served as a defense mechanism on the internet, as she was afraid of being rejected or criticized. However, she has learned to balance self-deprecation with self-confidence and recognizes that her skills and accomplishments deserve recognition and appreciation.

Q: What is Simone's creative process for coming up with projects?

Simone's creative process involves identifying everyday problems and finding creative solutions. She focuses on making projects that are relatable and explainable through simple GIFs or visual demonstrations. Simone finds inspiration in the malleability of the world around her and enjoys challenging conventional design and exploring new ideas. She also hints at upcoming projects, such as a mystery product and a show exploring the design of everyday objects.

Takeaways

Simone Giertz's journey as a maker and inventor demonstrates the power of creativity, humor, and embracing imperfection. Her projects, known as "shitty robots," have gained popularity for their quirky, relatable, and often humorous designs. While flawed, these robots evoke emotions and connections with humans, highlighting the potential for future robotics to create objects that people genuinely love. Simone's self-deprecating humor has been a significant element in her work, allowing her to connect with her audience while navigating the challenges and insecurities of being a female maker in a male-dominated field. Ultimately, she continues to explore new ideas, challenge conventions, and inspire others to embrace their creativity.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Simone Giertz started her journey by building "shitty robots" that demonstrated her creativity and humor.

  • She found joy in tackling everyday problems and engineering hilarious solutions.

  • Simone transitioned from focusing on building for others to building products that fulfilled her own creative desires.

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