Meet Robovox!

I’m in Austria to conclude talks on a new initiative that will help Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and other partners connect young Nigerians (and eventually Africans) with the opportunities that come with innovation (with a special leaning towards mobile applications). Like many first-time visits, this has been a splendid one for me. From the diplomatic intervention to the 9-hour wait in Doha (thanks to the lounge whose name I’ve now forgotten), “where’s my 30 year-old blonde” wait at the train terminal, nice 3-hour trip with my guide-turned-friend, warm welcome by my hosts and progress on the mission, I’m loving it! I think I should also say I love the snow too, because it was actually fun getting lost last night and falling twice (do I now have to buy anti-slide shoes?) in the snow. Confession: I love Lagos more, even if the heat is often unbearable 😉

The meetings were timed to coincide with the Europrix Festival in Graz and it’s been 2 full days of inspiration! Meeting young Europeans who are showcasing their innovative projects has added new flavour to the content of my meeting discussions — and I can’t wait to see young Africans come together to celebrate innovation and create new pathways for their respective industries. Listen to the organizers: The EUROPRIX winning projects are the best of young multimedia contents and design in Europe. The projects and products are the top selection from all entries to the Top Talent Award. They show that the new developments are not isolated, but that from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, from small towns to the European metro centres, young media designers have taken charge of the technologies to create new applications and contents that work in the real world.

Following yesterday’s beautiful session that featured a keynote presentation and discussions led by past winners of Europrix awards in different categories, today’s session focuses on demonstrations by category finalists. You can see a complete list of nominees here but the Robovox demonstration was really cool! The Robovox, a large interactive public sound installation using SMS for general public interaction, allows anyone to say anything out loud (and anonymously) by sending text messages to the robot via a short code. Even though the demonstration was made with a much smaller (about 2m) robot, the Robovox installation is usually 8m tall and has traveled to a number of public squares across the world. During the presentation, various text messages made their way to the short code and Martin Bricelj had to allow Robovox to say the many things that anonymous text authors just had to let out.

I wonder if the idea can be integrated into the existing public monuments so that the three elders that greet you as you enter Lagos can say Eko o ni b’aje! to remind everyone who drives into town that we make Lagos whatever it becomes.