Robot performance festival starts in Prague

The festival tries to bring more understanding of robots to the general public

The fifth edition of the international robot performance festival Cafe Neu Romance starts in Prague today, Oct. 24, and runs to Oct. 26. Events will be at the National Technical Library and the Institute of Intermedia at ČVUT.

The theme this year is rather cryptic: Wake up, Puppet, the Golden Rooster is calling you! It refers to it being 90 years ago since the famous Czech puppet Hurvínek was created, and 150 years since the mechanical Golden Rooster was added to the Astronomical Clock in Prague's Old Town Square. A number of leading experts and artists in the field of robotics, puppetry and theater will attend the event, according to organizers.

The main challenge the robot industry currently faces is not developing advanced robots, but gaining understanding and awareness about robots among the general public, the organizers state.

“The objective of the festival is to heighten the public's interest in robots and robotics, by inviting them to Cafe Neu Romance and letting them participate in different activities like events, lectures, workshops and exhibition. … We believe if the community can create cozy robotic solutions, then the general public will also adopt these solutions in their homes in the future,” the organizers state on the festival website.

The official opening of Cafe Neu Romance is on Oct. 24 at 6 pm at the National Technical Library.

There will be a “crappy robot sumo wrestling contest” for those who are not technically gifted. “It is a competition where crappy robots that can just barely move gather and somehow manage to engage in odd, awkward battles. … This is the only robot contest in the world where people with no technical capabilities to make robots are presented prizes,” the organizers state.

It will be followed at 7 pm by a lecture by Petr Skála on the Astronomical Clock and at 8 pm by a screening of the Martin Scorsese film Hugo.

Petr Skála is a restorer of tower clocks licensed by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. He has worked on the Astronomical Clock since 2009.

The next two days will have lectures and workshops on five topics: robots and the society of future; robots, art and sound; robots, dramaturgy and interaction; robotics, architecture and movement; and robot theater and performance.

Presenters will come from the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, the US, Canada and Australia.

Cafe Neu Romance is organized by Vive Les Robots!, a Danish robot marketing and event firm that seeks to promote robots from a culture-historical perspective.

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