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Robots descend on Lansdowne Park for Maker Faire Ottawa

From being fed with a spoon to getting your photo snapped — but only if you look friendly — robots have taken over the Aberdeen Pavilion this weekend.

Get fed by a spoon-wielding robot; let a 'paparazzi bot' snap your photo

Erin Kennedy's tiny robotic snowplow is one of the many curious technological marvels being showcased at Lansdowne Park this weekend for Maker Faire Ottawa 2015. (Giacomo Panico/CBC Ottawa)

In one section of the Aberdeen Pavilion, a yellow hydraulic robot crushes empty beer cans into tiny heirlooms.

In another, a so-called "paparazzi bot" snaps photos of people who step on a red carpet — but only if they look friendly.

While one could be tempted to see it all as a sign that robots have become sentient and thrown off the shackles of their human masters, it's actually just part of Maker Faire Ottawa, taking place this Saturday and Sunday at Lansdowne Park.

'Monster of a show'

"It's going to be a monster of a show. It's huge. We have close to triple the number of exhibitors than last year," said show organizer Remco Volmer on CBC's In Town and Out Saturday morning.

Maker Faire Ottawa has been entrancing people in the capital with its cavalcade of curious innovations since 2010, but until this year the event was held on a much smaller scale.

2015 has seen Maker Faire Ottawa "level up," as organizers put it on their website. It's now part of a global network of 20 larger "feature faires" taking place in cities like Tokyo, Rome and Berlin.

That new status means many more exhibits for showgoers to interact with — like Simon Laroche's spindly, spoon-wielding robotic feeding device.

"Being fed is something that's very intimate. We were trying to see how people would react to being fed by a robot," said Laroche, who came down from Montreal to take part in the show. 

"We're trying to evaluate how we can create this type of relationship with a robot."

Robert Hengeveld brought his 135-kilogram beer can crushing machine to the fair from Toronto. He says he's interested in using the robot to ask questions about why people assign worthiness or merit to physical objects.

Robert Hengeveld's hydraulic crusher, on display this weekend at Maker Faire Ottawa 2015, turns beer cans into small cubes. (Giacomo Panico/CBC Ottawa)

"I'm taking what would be garbage and, in the process of crushing it, giving it value," said Hengeveld, as he inserts a tall beer can into a slot in the side of the robot, which then pounds it into a one-square-inch cube.

"It's often the stories behind the material that kind of gives it that [importance]," he says.

Maker Faire Ottawa runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lansdowne Park's Aberdeen Pavilion. Before you head down, take a listen to In Town and Out host Giacomo Panico getting a sneak peek at some of this year's robots.

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