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These Robots Are So Bad They're Good

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Casey Williams

When Simone Giertz started posting videos of her "shitty robots" on YouTube, her goal was to have fun -- not get famous. 

"I just wanted to learn about electronics," she told The Huffington Post. "I started out building things because I thought it was fun."

But since Giertz posted her first video nearly a year ago, a growing crowd has headed to her YouTube channel, "Simone's Robots," to watch unintelligent machines fail at absurd tasks. Giertz's most popular post -- a "wake-up machine" that rouses the user from sleep by slapping the person with a rubber arm -- has received over one million views. 

Giertz's winning formula is simple: She whips up ridiculous robotic solutions to minor life problems and suffers the hilarious consequences. Viewers learn something about robotics and get to laugh.

Designing over-the-top fixes for petty problems also amuses Giertz.

"It's so important to do things because you're enthusiastic about them, rather than because you have to," Giertz said. "That's a little bit cheesy," she added. "But it's something I legitimately think."

Giertz studied physics in college for a while and then dropped out to work as a journalist. She ran a startup, but grew frustrated at her lack of coding skills, she said 

"So I started teaching myself programming and getting a lot of ideas." She remains mostly self-taught, she said. 

Giertz went to work for a company that makes Arduino circuit boards, until she quit to work full-time on her own robots. She uploaded videos of some of her inventions to YouTube in 2015, and they took off. 

"I just posted some of the products I built, and they started getting a lot of attention," Giertz said.

Some people feel deeply uncomfortable about robots, concerned that they might take over human jobs or destroy free will. When asked if building dysfunctional robots was meant to ridicule fears about an impending robot takeover, Giertz responded, "You mean like the antidote to Skynet?" (referring to the villain of "Terminator" movie fame).

"It's more like a robot comedy," she said. It's a comedy because "robots do what you tell them to do and in such a serious, dedicated way -- even though it's going to hell."

Giertz plans to continue making videos of her robotic creations for as long as she's learning and having fun.

"To me this is a still learning process. I learn something new with everything I build," she said. "And now I'm taking more people on the same learning journey."

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