Mark McKeague

Experiments in Robot Sound

If robots are to become commonplace in our homes they will inevitably encounter those who are uncomfortable living with them. One of these people is my girlfriend and the thought of a robot in her domestic space makes her skin crawl. What changes can be made to the robot’s presence to allow her to move beyond her phobia? 

I began by separating different design aspects of robots imagining how variations in form and behaviour might alter my Girlfriends reaction to them.


For this project I focused on the sound made by robots. Current robot sounds are mostly a product of their mechanical components; the whirring of gears and the clicking of motors, whilst she finds this unpleasant, engineering a quieter or silent robot results in a far more sinister presence.

With their natural sounds unacceptable and having no sound even creepier, what sounds should robots make?


In order to explore this question I used an ASIMO promotional video as a blank canvas. New sounds were re-imagined using foley and sound design then placed on top to create 5 new versions of the video:


• Buzzing: Servo motors, clunking and whirring noises, the control experiment.


• Cat: Can robots take cues from current domestic creatures?


• Involuntary Actions: Our bodies make noises over which we have no control, would they suit robots? 


• Sighs: What can the robot communicate with its presence?


• Slippers: Or maybe a robot just needs to be little more homely?

Video Clip: Experiments in Robot Sound

Storm in a Teacup
City Symphonies