DONA – a donation gathering robot
In some countries, begging is forbidden by the law and could lead to a heavy fine or even imprisonment. However, in order to counter the relatively low rate of donations made by individuals in South Korea, designer Min Su Kim created DONA – a charming little robot designed to gather donations for various charitable causes across the world. According to its initial demonstrations, the concept might prove successful.
Initially imagined to promote individual donations in Korea, the projects start-up was launched at a 72 hour workshop named Sharing Experiences 2009 in Seoul, in cooperation with MIT Media Lab. Because they noticed the tendency of people for spontaneous throwing behaviors when they donate, or throwing coins at the center of a pond or a water fountain, the DONA robot allows people to put their cash in the donations box.
Since then, DONA had 2 more iterations, and its latest version is able to interactively solicit for donations from passers-by. The robot is capable to roam around in a public outdoor space and solicit for donations from passers-by by engaging them through pet-like interaction, or it stands in a place and shows gratitude to generous people who make donations. Its simple head and navigation movement is programmed using Arduino – an open-source electronics prototyping platform.
The current DONA prototype dimensions are about 78 x 45 x 55 cm (31 x 18 x 22 inches), which is double in size compared to its previous version. Aside its size, this robot has greater complexity regarding its movement as well. Unlike its previous version which had only 3 servo motors, the current prototype has 22 servo motors (6 for its head, 6 for each arm, and 4 for wheels).
Although the robot has 20 predefined gestures, in its demonstration it is programmed to perform only a couple of its animations in order to ask for donations, thank or bow to people when they are within its range. Thanks to its 3 distance measuring sensors, it is capable to sense and interact with people within a 60 to 70 cm range from the robot. The 2nd and current versions of robot are designed to look non-threatening and cute.
As its previous versions, the latest DONA has the ability to move around. However, due to complexity of programming needed to coordinate the robot with its surroundings and interact with many people who pass by, this feature hasn’t been demonstrated yet. In my personal opinion, the robot appears less threatening if it’s fixed to its post or it moves only a bit around the post in some of its animations.
In order to provide emotional feedback in response to people’s donation, the robot thanks them by nodding its head. That method has proven itself successful because the robot managed to gather donations in different cultures where bows have the same meaning whether in Seoul, South Korea, or New York, USA.
After we asked if there is a future version in plan, Kim replied: “Since I was really busy because of MA applications this year, I delayed its future plan for a while – but, I am planning to upgrade existing version… or, hopefully, seek to build new version if I can get financial supporters.”