Sparky the Robot visits a museum, on PRI's Studio360

My segment on Sparky — a robot made by San Francisco artist Marque Cornblatt using a Mac Mini, Skype, and a hodge podge of gadget parts — aired this weekend on PRI's Studio360, the arts and culture radio show hosted by novelist Kurt Anderson. Instead of doing a straight up interview, Marque and I took Sparky to the SF MoMa unannounced to see if we'd be let into the galleries. You can listen to the segment here, but for full effect I recommend going to Studio360's web site and watching the audio slideshow (below the Diablo Cody one) — it includes pictures of Sparky in the MoMa, Marque's living room, and the other characters that make appearances on the show. Cody, Ellroy, Sparky on Studio360


  1. Is that an unenclosed CRT Sparky’s got for a head? Is that safe? Touch the back of a CRT in the wrong place and you’ll be sparky alright.

  2. I love the part when the kid who’s clearly bright enough to get that it’s a remotely controlled machine asks “So where are you at in the world really?” To which the operator, who insists he’s “Sparky the Robot!”, replies “As far as I’m concerned, we are together in the same place,” The kid’s bemused reaction to the encounter is priceless. It was also funny where the museum staff’s chief concern was what the robot could photograph!

    This stll is a cool concept. It wont be viable though unless it catches on and you have the software readily available and fleets of Sparkies at popular places awaiting operators. It would be more useful if there were arms attached to it so the operator could manipulate objects- like open doors, push elevator buttons, examine objects, or remotely work. Its a novel spin on teleconferencing.

    Many industries and dangerous jobs could benefit from telepresent workers. It would be handy for those who cannot travel much due to expense or health issues. It might be nice for people to be able to visit online friends using Sparkies. Its not the same experience as being somewhere but it could be a cheaper alternative to extra car trips. Sparky is a hobbyist’s toy, but there are uses this, and only time will tell if this becomes commonplace.

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