Ford disguised a man as a car seat to research self-driving (

339 points by gopalakrishnans 280 days ago


michaelbuckbee 280 days ago

It sounds goofy, but this strikes me as really clever. Compared to almost anything else with self driving cars adding a few indicators to outwardly show what it's going to do next (for pedestrians and other drivers) is a huge win.

There is a fair amount of waving for someone else to go first at a turn, seeing if a driver is distracted (on their phone) at a stop, making eye contact while using a cross walk etc that gets lost with SDVs.

Also, I really feel like they stole this idea from Raid 2

    agumonkey 280 days ago

    * SPOILER *

    That's how they made Knight Rider "driverless" scenes ( <= can't find a clear shot, but if you find episodes online, it's pretty easy to see the double depth seat and raised up armrests)

    cpv 279 days ago

    I can't recall properly where I read it, but some time ago there was an idea to have stop signals also in front of the car, so the pedestrians would know if the driver/car is stopping.

    There are also pedestrians who can take into account if the car is turning (obviously by watching the turning lights).

    A self-driving car should have some reactions to people around it, so people could also respond properly to its actions, or know its intentions. There was a comment about an empty electric car near the intersection, staying still, and people around it can't tell if the car is parked, waiting, etc.

      icc97 279 days ago

      That seems a marvelously simple idea!

      People understand what brake lights are and it's relatively simple to see the car slowing down that corresponds with the lights. Then assuming the driver doesn't use the hand brake then it should be obvious that the car is starting again when the brake lights go out.

      All this flickering of lights seems way too complex

      emj 279 days ago

      That won't work you can never know if the driver sees you or other cars, this is actually a very common problem at intersections. Drivers look for cars and slow down, people walk/bicycle over thinking the driver has seen them. This is how people die at intersections.

    dsfyu404ed 280 days ago

    The slow "laptop in sleep mode" blink would be perfect for "I'm oblivious to the fact that I'm impeding traffic".

    KozmoNau7 279 days ago

    "waving for someone else to go first at a turn"

    Ever since I heard of people getting blame for accidents, since they were effectively directing traffic (which only the police are allowed to do here), I've stopped waving people to go ahead and similar gestures, instead I'll give them space and wait for them to act of their own accord.

    I've also stopped acting on other people's waves and gestures, I check for myself that everything is clear before I proceed.

    Luckily I haven't witnessed an accident like this myself, but I know of people who've been T-boned on multi-lane streets because they were waved ahead by a guy in one lane, but someone came in another lane and couldn't see the turning car.

      Joe-Z 279 days ago

      This annoys me too most of the time. Being in traffic is not the time to play Mr. Friendly, it's the time to follow the rules and thus behave predictably for the other drivers.

      Chris2048 279 days ago

      It's well known - a driver can only account for themselves, not you (or the environment).

      As such, a driver that waves you on can only be trusted as saying "I will wait" but not "you are clear to go", you have to always verify this for yourself.

    gambiting 279 days ago

    I don't mean to be offensive, but can someone please explain to me how the Stop signs work in US? Am I correct to understand that whoever arrived at the stop sign first goes first, regardless of where they are going? Is this considered a good system?

    In EU you have strictly defined priority at stop signs - put simply, if you are going straight you have priority over someone turning, if you are turning, then the person turning right has priority over someone turning left. Simple as that.

    I'm just thinking in context of automatic vehicles a strictly defined priority rules are easier to follow, no?

      simondw 279 days ago

      > I don't mean to be offensive

      Reading this immediately makes me read the rest of your comment as much more negative and critical than I would otherwise. That's not necessary. If you want to ask a question about stop signs in the U.S., just ask it. (On the other hand, this is something you could google in about 5 seconds, so maybe your point really is just to criticize? Again, your opening line has thrown me off.)

        Chris2048 279 days ago

        Much like those notices that bear the heading "polite notice". I'll be the judge of that.

      kgwgk 279 days ago

      > In EU you have strictly defined priority at stop signs

      Have you ever seen a 4-way stop in Europe?

      I think what you try to explain is the rule for unmarked intersections.

      > put simply, if you are going straight you have priority over someone turning, if you are turning, then the person turning right has priority over someone turning left. Simple as that.

      That wouldn't work very well when people go straight in different directions...

        pluma 279 days ago

        (Disclosure: I learned how to drive in Germany, details may differ in other European countries, apart from the obvious mirroring when driving on the left)

        The fallback rule for all situations is "yield to the right". If you're at an intersection with no signs or markings, you get to drive if there's no-one to the right of you.

        This creates a deadlock when all roads are unmarked and there's a car on each of them at the exact same time but that almost never happens and can be resolved by slowly inching forward if the person to the right of you doesn't move and then exiting the crossing.

        When entering from a road that has a solid line or a yield sign, you always have to yield to the traffic on the road you're merging into. A stop sign means you have to come to a full stop even if the road is empty and slowly approach until you can clearly see there's no traffic and only then merge (after yielding).

        Most other rules follow from that.

        I'm not sure what you mean by "4-way stop" but if there were a 4-way crossing with stop signs on all sides it would result in a deadlock and be resolved the same way. Except with the explicit restriction that everyone first has to come to a full stop and slowly move forward to determine the traffic situation.

          kgwgk 279 days ago

          In the US everyone stops and then whoever arrived first goes, breaking the deadlock in a well defined fashion (as long as everyone agrees on the order!).

        gambiting 279 days ago

        >>Have you ever seen a 4-way stop in Europe?

        I have actually.

        >>That wouldn't work very well when people go straight in different directions...

        Yes, I forgot to mention the "right hand principle" - in this case, whoever is on your right has priority over you. So if you are going straight, and the guy to your right is going straight, he has priority. The only situation where it doesn't work and leads to a deadlock is if you have a 4-way(or 3 way) intersection with equal-priority roads and everyone wants to go straight. Then it sort of reverts to this "whoever goes first wins" strategy - but that's incredibly rare and seeing roads with equal priority meet in this fashion is unusual.

        yorwba 279 days ago

        > That wouldn't work very well when people go straight in different directions...

        That was actually used in my parallel-programming course as the example of a deadlock caused by priority inversion. Of course it almost never happens that there are cars in all four directions at an intersection without traffic lights, so it isn't much of a problem in practice.

          kgwgk 279 days ago

          The parent's explanation didn't include the "yield to the right" rule, so it was problematic already with two cars.

    stcredzero 280 days ago

    It sounds goofy, but this strikes me as really clever.

    Didn't the Top Gear / Grand Tour guys jokingly propose to do this?

      SimbaOnSteroids 279 days ago

      Black Mirror had an episode where this went horribly wrong.

    sailfast 280 days ago

    * SPOILER *

    And Sherlock.

      mmirate 280 days ago

      "Spoiler"? Oh, please, that one gets solved barely halfway through the episode.

mykeliu 280 days ago

People in the comments are making references to prank videos and film techniques, but this type of research study has also been conducted multiples times in the last few years by institutions such as Stanford [1], UC San Diego [2], Virginia Tech [3], and more.




    tonmoy 280 days ago

    I think the article is referring to the VirginiaTech study itself too

      mykeliu 280 days ago

      Curses! Shame on me for commenting before thoroughly reading the article.

    cs2818 280 days ago

    Yep, these studies have been appearing at human-robot interaction conferences for a couple of years now.

shangxiao 280 days ago

A reporter apparently tried to talk to one of the drivers and they refused to acknowledge his presence:

    jhgb 280 days ago

    > and they refused to acknowledge his presence

    Well of course, anything else would have been a car seat cosplay fail!

      HillaryBriss 280 days ago

      last thing that driver wanted to do was endanger their job. it was a very cush gig.

    unkown-unknowns 280 days ago

    What an annoying reporter

      compuguy 280 days ago

      He's actually a pretty decent reporter in the Washington DC area. He covers transportation, including all the failures of WMATA (DC metro).

      280 days ago

      takeda 280 days ago

      I only heard him for 30 seconds and I already hate his guts.

    brandon272 279 days ago

    This is hilarious to me for some reason.

josefresco 280 days ago

"they just needed people to believe wholeheartedly they were using one."

Don't they mean "seeing one" instead of "using one"? Or am I missing something?

"fill in gaps where we currently communicate via subtle gestures, eye contact and other less obvious mechanisms."

This also struck me as odd - do pedestrians and other drivers really make "eye contact" with drivers to gauge their intention? I guess it's possible, but in many cases you can't see the driver's head, let alone eyes.

    uxp100 280 days ago

    > do pedestrians [...] really make "eye contact" with drivers to gauge their intention?

    Yes. Consciously, at every vehicle at an intersection, to make sure they aren't going to run me over. Same on a bike.

    Other drivers? IDK, its harder through 2 windshields.

      MrMember 280 days ago

      I do it all the time whether I'm walking, in a car, or on my motorcycle. If I look at them and see them looking at me it raises my confidence that they see me.

        kpil 280 days ago

        I've been given a ride in the passenger seat of a RHD car in a RHT country, ie the steering wheel is on the "wrong" side.

        It's actually quite stressful before the driver (hopefully) stops at a zebra crossing after you accidentally caught eye contact with a waiting pedestrian staring at you.

        The best strategy is to just look down, but that feels a bit stupid too when the pedestrians are clearly looking at you.

      saalweachter 280 days ago

      An electric car with an empty driver seat sitting at an intersection would be especially bad; when cross the street I would interpret that as a parked car, especially if it was by the curb (for either left or a right on a one-way street). Hopefully the car would be smart enough not to hit me but I don't want to have to start staring deeply at every parked car, trying to intuit if it is a robot about to pull away.

        mgbmtl 280 days ago

        Do like in Canada: all cars must have their headlights on when driving (the lights automatically turn on).

        edit: also, I feel like if we add new light signals for acceleration, for example, it would be nice to add that to all cars.

          bostonvaulter2 279 days ago

          I've always wanted front brake lights for cars, that way as a pedestrian (or other driver) you can tell if a car is actively stopping as it's approaching you.

            patrick_haply 279 days ago

            That's actually a really awesome idea. I wonder what the threshold of adoption would have to be before that signal is widely understood. Maybe that should become a necessary safety feature of driverless cars to replace the "feature" of being able to see what the driver is paying attention to through the window.

            Also, it looks like there are multiple (??) patents on that idea:

            PhasmaFelis 279 days ago

            As a cyclist, I sometimes see cars approaching crosswalks at a crawl, just creeping along at a few feet per second. I do that on my bike too, because I'm hoping the light will change before I have to come to a complete stop and put my foot down, but I have no idea why drivers do it, and it definitely doesn't feel safe crossing in front of a car like that.

              TomMarius 279 days ago

              In an automatic car, it's just about fuel efficiency and wear/tear. In a manual, it's that plus it's extremely annoying to stop and go at each semaphore.

              qbrass 279 days ago

              Coming to a stop and just sitting there can warp the brake rotors. The area under the calipers doesn't cool off as fast as the rest of the brake rotor, and the localized heating causes the metal to bend.

              You're supposed to creep forward a little, but some people might be overdoing it.

              shakna 279 days ago

              Not very safe, but a tiny bit more fuel efficient.

              Brakes are a great way to turn momentum into heat. Then you have to spend fuel to regain momentum.

              But, far less safe to move slowly when everyone else expected you were at a standstill.

              icc97 279 days ago

              Driverless cars won't do this... at least until we teach neutral networks frustration.

          vanjoe 280 days ago

          Those are daytime running lights. I wish headlights were mandatory, that would eliminate people driving in rainy twilight without lights on.

            tsomctl 279 days ago

            In California, you must have your headlights on if your wipers are on.

            dsfyu404ed 280 days ago

            It does the opposite.

            An always lit in vehicle display and DRLs that are just always on headlights makes people forget to turn their lights on when it's dark. This isn't a problem for them since they have their headlights on but drivers behind them don't see them from a distance at night because their tail lights are not lit up. This is particularly dangerous in traffic where everyone else has their lights on.

            Making DRLs mandatory is tripping over a quarter to pick up a penny because it enables this behavior.

              xyzzy_plugh 279 days ago

              I just always turn my headlights on when I start my car. It doesn't matter if it's day or night, or it'll get dark while I'm driving, or if it starts raining or I go through a tunnel. The lights are just always on.

              If everyone's car just did this automatically, the world would be a safer place. Why would you ever want the lights off?

                gambiting 279 days ago

                Well, ask in countries which actually have that as law - Poland introduced it few years ago and the jury is still out on whether it made roads safer or not. I'd argue it didn't - mostly because as a driver your brain starts to associate lights = moving car. Which means that you start to ignore everything that doesn't have lights - bicycles, cars where someone forgot to turn the lights on. There were studies done on this and it's very inconclusive that it improves safety at all.

                  icc97 279 days ago

                  Given it's a safety feature the main reason not to do it would be if somehow it made things worse. Even if the effect is almost negligible you're still going to save a couple of lives per year.

                  Once LED lights are more standard and there's less issue of replacing bulbs or wasting electricity it seems a no brainer.

                    gambiting 279 days ago

                    Well, that's the whole separate point in this discussion - normal headlamp bulbs are 60W - so you are using 120W of power to run two of them. How many cars are on the road for a country the size of Poland at a busy time of the day? 100k cars? That's 12 megawatts of power being used every day just to run some lights - and that's not counting rear lights at all. Generating 12 megawatts of power using thousands of ICEs is a massive waste of fuel, and it's probably incredibly hard to prove that conclusively, but I wouldn't be surprised if burning that fuel caused more deaths overall than having the lights on saves. I don't know if we can find any studies that would say either way though. Automotive LEDs are still within 10-15W range each, so while better than halogens they are not free.

                    And finally, I think there was a Polish study that said that yeah, while with the lights on you are more likely to notice a car, you are less likely to notice a cyclist - and hitting the latter has much worse consequences than hitting the former. So it might have made things worse.

                dsfyu404ed 279 days ago

                Headlights and DRLs are not the same.

                Most OEMs just make the headlights (and the headlights only, not the tail lights) always on in markets where DRLs are mandatory. The latter is what you get when you do what Canada did and require DRLs and don't require them to also be poor at being headlights.

                Pretty much any time when you want to signal the intention of not going anywhere is a darn good time to have your headlights off. Cars actually have parking lights for exactly this reason. They also work great for creeping around your own driveway without throwing too much light on the windows of houses in the very early AM.

              brewdad 279 days ago

              A lot of newer cars have an auto setting to handle this for you. DRL in daylight and headlights and tail lights as it gets dark or you go through a tunnel.

              My last car rental, some moron previous renter turned the switch to DRL only instead of Auto. I did exactly as you described and drove with no tail lights and headlights that seemed dim but it wasn't my my car so it must just be that way. Eventually another driver flashed his brights from behind and I realized my mistake.

          5ilv3r 280 days ago

          16 year olds would wire them to be on all the time.

      shangxiao 280 days ago

      When driving, if another driving appears to be doing something unusual I try to make eye contact to see what they're doing and try to determine their intentions.

      hansjorg 280 days ago

      I wonder if it's also beneficial to make eye contact since you have to turn your face towards the driver. Our brains are pretty good at picking out faces from a sea of visual information.

    Splines 280 days ago

    > do pedestrians and other drivers really make "eye contact" with drivers to gauge their intention?

    I certainly do - most commonly when merging into a congested lane from a side street, stopping and making eye contact helps understand if everybody is paying attention (the merger can move forward and the merged is leaving a space open for them).

    Motorcyclists also have a pretty large vocabulary (I'm not sure how many of these are actually used in practice):

      deathanatos 280 days ago

      Body language can convey a lot of information. We had to swerve onto the shoulder slightly yesterday to allow a motorcyclist room to move out of the way of a car in lane 2 who wanted to merge into lane 1, but didn't bother to signal or check his mirror. The wave we got from the cyclist afterwards said all of "thank you, and screw the guy next to me".

      Chris2048 279 days ago

      There's a rule of motorcycling that you look at a cars wheels, not the driver: "the car driver is likely to look you straight in the eye, before they pull out right in front of you".

      jpindar 280 days ago

      Most of those are used when riding with a club or other group who know each other.

    mikestew 280 days ago

    do pedestrians and other drivers really make "eye contact" with drivers to gauge their intention?

    They do, and it's even advised by some. But I'm here to tell you that the eyes lie. I've had people look me directly in the eye and still pull out in front of me.

    Look at the wheels. The wheels will always tell you what the vehicle is going to do.

      maxerickson 280 days ago

      When I'm jogging in the local park I'll often avoid making eye contact, as I think that this often works better to get people to stop (they aren't convinced you see them). Of course I'm prepared to stop if the vehicle doesn't.

      I'm sort of intentionally being abrasive there though, as I think people drive too aggressively given the surroundings.

        chris_7 279 days ago

        The real problem here is that cars are permitted in a park.

          maxerickson 279 days ago

          Maybe. It's a big park, 120 acres, and there is a hill on the non-lake perimeter that would make it difficult to construct adequate parking there.

        dsfyu404ed 280 days ago

        >I'm sort of intentionally being abrasive there though, as I think people drive too aggressively given the surroundings.

        This kind of passive aggressive behavior creates more problems than it solves.

          maxerickson 279 days ago

          I'm not dead yet.

            dsfyu404ed 279 days ago

            Someone who's having a bad day is going to flip out on you for being an idiot and not paying attention (as they see it) when they have to stop short.

            It'll probably happen eventually.

            Looking like an oblivious idiot (which is indistinguishable from actually being one as far as other people care) who may dart out into the road at any second isn't going to make the world a better place. It will just increase the net frustration. Same goes for going the speed limit in the left lane. Roads are safer when people aren't angry.

              maxerickson 279 days ago

              "stop short"?

              You are imagining much more aggressive behavior than I am actually engaging in. If it isn't clear that they have stopped, no way am I stepping in front of them.

      Bjartr 280 days ago

      > Look at the wheels. The wheels will always tell you what the vehicle is going to do.

      This is exactly what I do, it's really obvious when the rim are rotating, even at very low speeds.

      Can't say I look people in the eyes much while driving.

        dwighttk 279 days ago

        what about when they have spinners?

    dwighttk 280 days ago

    >"they just needed people to believe wholeheartedly they were using one."

    >Don't they mean "seeing one" instead of "using one"? Or am I missing something?

    the "they"s in the quote refers to the researchers, not "people"

    Jarwain 280 days ago

    > "they just needed people to believe wholeheartedly they were using one."

    'they' is referring to Ford. Rephrased, "Ford just needed people to believe wholeheartedly [that] Ford [was] using one"

    jvolkman 280 days ago

    Pedestrians often do. For example, I'd want to make eye contact with a driver of a car attempting to make an unprotected left turn (and not looking in my direction) prior to crossing in front of it.

      Fricken 280 days ago, (recently in the news for partnering with Lyft), has large LCD screens for signalling to pedestrians and other things. Probably a good idea.

    jasonmaydie 280 days ago

    This was actually in the news about a mysterious van with a driver pretending to be self driving.

    jklp 279 days ago

    > This also struck me as odd - do pedestrians and other drivers really make "eye contact" with drivers to gauge their intention?

    This statement both terrifies and piques my interest simultaneously ...

    ltjkid 280 days ago

    They(Ford) just needed people to believe wholeheartedly that they(Ford) were using one.

    Ford was using the car. The people were seeing it. The second "they" in that sentence is referring to Ford, not the people.

    ape4 280 days ago

    I certainly try to make eye contact when walking in front of a car.

    Ajedi32 280 days ago

    Yeah, it doesn't look like this disguise would work very well against someone sitting in the passenger seat.

      josefresco 280 days ago

      For a second I thought they put a passenger in the "lap" of the driver - but looking at the pics there's no way...

    dsfyu404ed 280 days ago

    do pedestrians and other drivers really make "eye contact" with drivers to gauge their intention?

    The good ones do

    user_taken 280 days ago

    Surely they weren't having people sit on the guys lap.. This would be a great way to judge other's reactions though. I could see people who had never seen a self driving car, paying more attention to the spectacle than actually driving.

    krallja 279 days ago

    And I suppose the "break lights" are lit when the CPU is nonfunctional?

ATsch 280 days ago

It's interesting, everybody is thinking about how this was used for pranks and films, but I immediately thought of the much more sinister attempts to flee east Germany. I was unable to find a photo, but I remember seeing a car that was modified so a person could be sewn into the seat in a Berlin Museum.

    london888 280 days ago

    Yes - it happened, also on the Mexico/US border, this has a guy as a car seat but leads with woman in a dashboard:

      usaphp 280 days ago

      I wonder how is it possible to find someone hidden in a dashboard? Were it dogs that found her?

        nobodyorother 280 days ago

        I'm paraphrasing the news report because it's been a few years, but:

        The border patrol agent became suspicious when the driver opened the glove box to retrieve his registration and a hand reached out from within the box to give it to him.

          stcredzero 280 days ago

          Sometimes, one can be too helpful.

otakucode 280 days ago

This is really quite common. I read an article about a car in Pittsburgh where a driver was similarly disguised in order to research specifically other peoples reactions to driverless vehicles on the road. In the article I read, I believe it occurred in Pittsburgh, PA and the researcher was affiliated with a university (maybe Carnegie Melon?). The reporter was able to speak with the costumed researcher just briefly, but got a more substantive statement from the org doing the research.

    josephpmay 280 days ago

    That's literally the same project this article is about

    B1FF_PSUVM 280 days ago

    Don Norman said in a talk they also have done that at his UCSD outfit.

dpflan 280 days ago

Seems like they need to turn the cameras inward too (or has this been done already?); they can start observing "good" drivers providing signs to other drivers to then learn how to communicate a driving decision better.

    dpflan 280 days ago

    It's kind of funny imagining a robot / self-driving car program going through driver's ed and taking the driver's license test with a human scoring it. Will car models and algorithms be evaluated like this too? :)

riphay 280 days ago

Really interesting study, would have liked to see some preliminary or even anecdotal findings discussed in the article.

I've seen some Youtubers pranking drive-through windows in the same way and they're pretty funny at the very least.

rurounijones 279 days ago

I have been in a situation when I was mid-crosswalk when an idiot came screaming round a long shallow corner too fast (fast enough to have the white-line between his wheels).

I had a 50/50 choice. Keep going or run back. In the 3 or so seconds I had we made eye contact and I saw him return his eyes to my front (i.e. he was trying to get back on to his side of the road) so I moved backwards.

Not sure what I would have done if it were a self-driving car and unable to do the visual communication (Although the entire point might be moot since a self-driver wouldn't be in that situation)

kornork 280 days ago

So what were the results? Are pedestrians jerks? Do other cars cut them off?

firefoxd 280 days ago

New Turing test:

Is the driver in the car in front of you a human driver or a computer.

zaroth 280 days ago

Looks like they put a cylon indicator on it? Not terrifying at all...

As for devising new signals which other drivers are supposed to watch to understand what the car plans to do, I'd say we need a lot more research to understand if this actually helps or just distracts.

ForFreedom 279 days ago

Only successful if they can cross the Mexico border. :D

ourmandave 279 days ago

Prediction: this is the sell out costume for Halloween.

foota 280 days ago

This article confused me a lot more before I realized Ford meant the company, not the individual.

    manmal 280 days ago

    Interestingly, it was the same for me. I was really confused for a few seconds until "self-driving" sank in and it became clear that Henry Fore could not have been alive for that.

      userbinator 279 days ago

      In Henry's time, "self-driving" would probably be more likely used to describe a brick on the accelerator.

    vincengomes 279 days ago

    Also the first Ford that came to my mind was Ford from Westworld, not the carmaker.

280 days ago

trhway 280 days ago

a programmer disguised as HM Aeron chair ... probably makes for more serene looking open floor office, and also minimizes the chances of the others bugging you with various stuff.

neves 280 days ago

In London, with their right positioned drivers, more than once I got a scare of the phantom drivers. :-)

harveywi 280 days ago

Not quite the promotion to deputy chair that he had expected.

joshdance 280 days ago

Reminds me of the magician who goes through drive throughs in that costume.

I like the idea of an indicator showing what the car is 'doing'.

nobodyorother 280 days ago

I can't wait until somebody patents "signaling pedestrians" and we all have to deal with brand-specific signaling mechanisms.

Thank Zod QWERTY was invented so long ago.


jedberg 280 days ago

Off topic, but man do I hate looping gifs in my articles. It's so incredibly distracting.

Sure, play it once, maybe even twice. But an endless loop? That's just unnecessary.

    Sujan 279 days ago

    It's not even very good communication. As there often is no clear start and end, when I scroll to the gif I have to watch it at least 2 or 3 times until I really know what is going on, where the loop starts and where it ends. Simple video would be so much better.

280 days ago

askvictor 280 days ago

The conspiracy theorist in me figures this kind of research will be used by companies that are falling behind in the self driving car race (no pun intended) to get governments to regulate against self driving cars.

MrBlue 280 days ago

Going off on a tangent here but is the HDR filter really necessary for those images? What is gained by using it? /rant

bitwize 280 days ago

This isn't even the most elaborate market-research stunt I've seen.

Some of you older folk may remember an 80s sitcom called Small Wonder, which was a typical American suburbia family sitcom, except the youngest daughter, Vicki, was a robot. What I found unusual about the show was its copyright message: "©1987 The Small Wonder Joint Venture". In later years I found out that the show was produced in part for market research purposes, to solicit feedback about how Americans might feel about robots in the home -- especially robots that look and behave like humans. It was the 80s and we all thought that was coming Real Soon Now.

    martey 280 days ago

    The unusual name ("The Small Wonder Joint Venture") is because the television show was the first product of a "joint venture" between 5 television stations [1], not because it was made by some secret home robotics manufacturer or marketing firm.


    influx 280 days ago

    Interesting, I do recall that show, but can't find any corroborating info, sounds like a great urban legend though!

    thebrettd 280 days ago

    Are you denigrating my Teddy Ruxpin?