It was just another day at work for Alantim, the Russian robot. Since 2015, the friendly bot and its clones—also named Alantim—have shared the job of deputy head at the Moscow Technological Institute’s Department of Robotics, where they lecture students, interact with visitors and tourists, and appear at events around Moscow.
But about two months ago, while this particular Alantim was traveling around the city to research driverless car technology, an aggressor bashed its head with a baseball bat, as captured at the end of this video:
The sad news is that this Alantim could not be revived after the attack. But the silver lining is that its death inspired Olga Budnik, a spokesperson for the Muscovite tech hub Phystechpark, to create the world’s first dedicated robot cemetery.
“Alantim was a really good robot,” Budnik told me in an email. “It was supportive, always polite, always happy to see you. You know, like a pet. And [the cemetery] was an idea to bury it like a pet. Not disassemble or carry it to the trash. To say good-bye.”
On October 31, Alantim’s Earthly remains were placed at the Phystechpark cemetery site next to a box for collecting other dead robots. He was eulogized by another Alantim, who honored his dearly departed “brother” for being “very useful to your people and Russian science,” according to a Russian-to-English translation of the ceremony as seen at the top of this article.
“For the moment, the cemetery looks like an art installation,” Budnik said. “It includes the cardboard box and the dead robot. Initially, we wanted to test the interest of the audience. Now, it is obvious that a robot cemetery is something people like to have nearby. They call Phystechpark, to ask whether they can bring in their gadgets.”
The offerings so far have included a red toy car, batteries, and other electronics, she added.
As for Alantim’s attacker, his identity is still a mystery. Vocativ even speculated that the incident was staged. Budnik denied the claim, and pointed out that Alantim is worth about $10,000. “This is too expensive to crash just for a PR stunt,” she said.
Regardless of who killed Alantim, the robot has been given proper robotic funeral rites. The Phystechpark installment brings abiotic graveyards to life—or afterlife—after many science fiction depictions of the concept, such as Futurama‘s robot cemetery and the robotics disposal ground in Fallout. It also demonstrates that humans are becoming emotionally attached to our robot companions, especially when they are smart and communicative.
For instance, the living Alantim ended its eulogy with the phrase, “let space take your mind,” a lyrical sentiment written especially for this ceremony, which is also inscribed on the graveyard box.
“I hope it will be the beginning of a new tradition for robot cemeteries,” Budnik said. “Let the Universe (or space) take your mind.”
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