Some strong entries into the Melbourne Science Fair this year, and by strong, I mean they all suck. The silver winner this year was a drone that’s able to make breakfast, and badly at that. It carried the orange juice on these little wires, spilling half of it, burned the eggs and didn’t butter the toast into the corners, but was given the runner-up prize because it’s “a leap forward in drone intelligence”. In a very technical sense, that is true.
First prize went to a full-blown robot, with AI and everything, named K/Y-L1 (or ‘Kylie’). It’s a hairdresser bot. Yes, you did read that correctly.
Kylie is currently doing a tour of all the hair salons inside David Jones, starting with the Melbourne CBD, with the idea being to showcase the benefits of this great technology when it comes to hair care and styling. Bear in mind that this is a bulky block of metal with wheels, thick steel arms and a bad wig on its square head. It uses its weird metal claws to cut hair, while rattling off one of twelve fun phrases, including “ARE-YOU-GOING-ANYWHERE-NICE-ON-YOUR-HOLIDAYS” and “BANGS-TOTALLY-FLATTER-YOUR-FACE-SHAPE” and “HAVE-YOU-EVER-TRIED-A-BLOW-WAVE-IT-WOULD-REALLY-HELP-WITH-THOSE-CURLS.”
Honestly, it’s terrifying. I saw it in action on a mannequin that was wearing a human-hair wig, and Kylie bore down on its head like it was about to crack it open, straightening wand sizzling. I suppose it did a good enough job in a controlled environment, with a subject that didn’t move, but I wouldn’t trust that thing to cut or style my hair, certainly not over a real, human hairdresser. As soon as I heard its dulcet tones proclaiming “MOUSSE-IS-ACTUALLY-VERY-IN-RIGHT NOW” I’d be throwing off the silvery poncho and taking my business elsewhere. By which I mean I’d be finding a hair salon near South Melbourne where all the employees are human and not made of metal.
It’s technically impressive, I suppose, but the gold prize is as good as it gets. This innovation isn’t going to take off.