Kate Darling of the MIT Media Lab: From gadgets and apps to robots with rhythm

Kate Darling, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, studies the relationship between humans and robots.
Kate Darling, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, studies the relationship between humans and robots.

As a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, Kate Darling is a social scientist who studies the ways in which robots influence human behavior and emotion. She shared her digital habits with The Download.

What device wakes you up in the morning? The sun. I’m a really bad sleeper. I don’t need technology to wake me up.

What’s the one gadget you can’t live without? The Ringly in connection with my phone. It’s a ring — it’s really pretty, it looks like costume jewelry. It has a big stone in it and has five different modes of vibration. It has a little diamond on the side that will light up different colors very subtly. You can set it with the app to be alerted for any notifications you want. But in particular I like it because I can set it to know who’s calling me, and I can decide if I need to pick up.

How do you unplug? I don’t really. But I don’t look at my phone ever when I’m skiing, so that’s my unplug time.

How do you get your news? Twitter. I continuously curate the people I follow so that I’m getting the things I want to see.

What was the last tech tool you became a fan of? The thing that’s recently changed my life is Momentum, which is a Chrome browser plugin. It displays a really beautiful background photo, but it changes every day so you pay attention to it. It also displays your to-do list. So I put my daily to-do list there every morning, and every time I open a tab to go on Twitter or whatever, it pops up and keeps me focused.

Are you the inbox zero type? I wish. I have a lot of flagged e-mails in my in box that need responses. I imagine it as one of those things that spits tennis balls at you and if you pause for even a second you get too many of them and you can’t hit all of them. I try. I would like to be an inbox zero type.

What’s on your tech wish list? Mainly robots. I would like a Nao next-generation robot; they’ve gotten cheaper. It’s a little humanoid robot that you can program. It’s really cute and it talks to you. You can make it dance, it can do tai-chi and stuff.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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