Remember the dream of KITT? That’s right, I’m referring to the car from Knight Rider, the sassy 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. What was so great about KITT? The jump capabilities were pretty hot, but at the end of the day, it was the personality that made the car. (Wait, am I the only one who just realized that Siri is a total KITT knockoff?)
30 years later, we’re approaching the sort of AI that could give our gadgets real personality. Moboto is a new Kickstarter project by Mark Solomon. A former designer for HP/Voodoo, he has a vision for a whole series of action-figure-esque bodies for iPhones. They’re powered by an app backend that aspires to not just digitize the bobble head, but create entire skinnable personalities.
“We are building a digital persona platform and at this particular point in time, the personas are an ‘app’ on a phone that visually expresses these emotions and interactions on the screen,” Solomon explains. “The hardware is simply a cool customizable prop to help create the ‘suspension of disbelief’ that Moboto is a being.”
These modular arms, legs, and personalities can also fuel a lucrative collectible market. Remember the popularity of ringtones? Imagine paying $1 to change the literal face of your iPhone, or to make it feel differently about you. Eventually, Solomon would like to see Moboto open up the platform, creating an SDK so that “normal users can customize and build other personas and features,” but for the time being, they’re banking on Moboto being an addictive purchase with a very long tail.
Moboto hasn’t quite reached $20,000 of its lofty $400,000 Kickstarter goal. Even still, that hasn’t stopped Solomon from thinking big. I asked if future Mobotos could evolve into mini robots, a means to leverage the iPhone as the brain for an autonomous walking, talking body. He indicated that it was indeed a major goal for the company after their phase I Moboto rollout. Yet even that idea is a bit smaller than the scale Solomon envisions.
“In the future, as we transition the software to new platforms and HTML5, web services, and others, these personas could be applied to other tech devices and robots,” Solomon tells us. “Storage, refrigerators, vacuums, cars, etc. Who knows?”
So Mark Solomon wants to give my refrigerator a personality, huh? So long as it’s a friendly one that’s open to sharing cake, the idea is fine by me.