07/03/2011 07:31 am ET Updated Sep 02, 2011

Kevin Grannan's Robotic Armpit Design Comments On Oppressive Robotics

You may have heard of the uncanny valley, but what about an "uncanny crevice?" London designer Kevin Grannan's design for a robotic armpit is just that, with a coat of latex and veil of hairs covering the holes that deliver "Japanese standard artificial sweat." The puzzling and disturbing design is on display at the Royal College of Art's 2011 Design Interactions show through July 3.

Along with the piece, Grannan lists several tongue-in-cheek applications in odor optimization, including a bomb-disposal robot that motivates its living colleagues with human fear-smell, and a surgery robot that releases oxytocin to instill its patients with a feeling of trust. The intimidating concept sketches comment on the risk that cutting-edge robotics could lead to increased subconscious human control.

In a fascinating interview with we make money not art, Grannan explains:

Much current research into robotics is focused on the creation of anthropomorphic robots - machines that look and appear to behave like humans. Although there are valid reasons for this research (and a good deal of egotism), I believe that this approach is fundamentally flawed. As Sherry Turkle put it in her latest book Alone Together these machine are 'pushing our Darwinian buttons ... and asking us to love them'. Their ability to target our innate desire to nurture makes us exceptionally vulnerable to manipulation. Fundamentally our relationships with these machines will be based on falsehoods and ignorance. This is especially worrying if we also believe that these machines are to become more prevalent in our lives and more sophisticated over time.

For more of Grannan's concept sketches, see this article from we make money not art.