Two robots, DON-8r (pronounced "donator") and Dona are capturing hearts and coins in tests across the U.S., Scotland and Korea, reports The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
DON-8r -- a friendly white robot that says "hello" and "thank you" to passerby, and is propelled by coin donations -- was the brainchild and senior project of Tim Pryde, a 21-year-old product design student at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
"You often see people walking very, very far around [solicitors] just so they don't get caught," he told Philanthropy. "What I wanted to do was design something that people wanted to approach. That's where the idea of it being a wee robot came from."
In a three-day test, Don-8r received about $43 in donations for the Dundee Science Centre for its nine hours of work.
Dona, a child-like Korean robot that sweetly bows, blinks and waves its arms at potential donors, has had much more success, putting DON-8r's earnings to shame with her $30-an-hour haul during trials in New York City's Union Square and Korea's Seoul Museum of Art, according to The Korea Herald. The funds were donated to Save the Children, for education projects in the Ivory Coast.
These latest robotic buddies are a bit more approachable -- and subtle -- than Gimme, a one-eyed robot created last year that shakes a can to indicate its desire for coins. Gimme was designed and built by Chris Eckert, with the same goal as Dona and DON-8r -- soliciting donations without the discomfort people feel when they're asked for money by a human.
"It inspires a wide variety of emotions: sympathy, fear, anger," Eckert told CNET News.
Whether robots will replace human panhandlers remains to be seen, but for now, they're a fun and novel way to raise a little cash for charity.
DON-8r, created by Tim Pryde, a 21-year-old design student at Scotland's University of Dundee.
Dona, created by design student Kim Min-su and a team of Korean researchers in collaboration with MIT and Carnegie Mellon University.
Gimme, designed and built by artist Chris Eckert. (Video note: You can see the robot in action at around 25 seconds).