For a long time humans have given robots a voice, a very human voice too, in literature. Today a big robot, set to roam over the flanks of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater, has a voice in real life. Curiosity’s voice comes from three women and we can read about what ‘she thinks’ on twitter and facebook.
We all understand that NASA uses social media to engage the public, specifically the young among us, as social media is how they communicate. In the former NASA missions of Spirit and Opportunity NASA worked hard to reach us all over the internet. Keeping pages and pages of images and news items. The MER rovers and Phoenix both also had a twitter account. However, this time out social media seems the name of the game and Curiosity has her own Twitter feed and Facebook page, both immensely popular.
Having the Curiosity speak to us in the first person gives her a real personality. A modern personality, that talks about pop culture and has a sassy attitude.
Behind sassy Curiosity are three women working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
Veronica McGregor had also been tweeting on behalf of the Mars Phoenix lander in 2008. While tweeting for Phoenix NASA found that tweeting in the first person attracts much more attention from the general public. Tweeting in the first person also has the added advantage that it takes up less characters writing ‘I am’ than writing ‘Phoenix is’, definitely a bonus if you have only 140 characters to express yourself with on Twitter.
Ofcourse the rover has two eyes, or at least that is what it looks like with the twin cameras on her mast, making it quite natural to let her talk as if she is actually seeing Mars. The three ladies giving her voice also keep in touch with the tweetspeak of the moment, giving her a distinct modern feel.
This is what Curiosity tweeted upon landing on Mars:
And the public loved it. The tweets give voice to what goes on within the Curiosity engineering and science group. It lets us hear what they are saying to each other and also about how much fun they are having. And I understand and recognize that voice as Science is fun for me too. I think that this is what speaks to the 250,000 fans on Facebook and the over 90,000 twitter followers.
The only side effect so far is that recently on national radio Curiosity’s chief scientist John Grotzinger was referred to as Curiosity‘s ‘bff’ , which I dare say is taking it one step too far.
The twitter and facebook feed have met with enormous enthusiasm, a love for space. Perhaps that has been around for decades, but social media bring it to the fore like never before.
Ofcourse, if the landing had not been successful the tweets would have reflected that too.
The team is waiting for the Curiosity rover to use its arm and specifically the MAHLI camera at the end as with that camera Curiosity can take a picture of herself on Mars. That will be her profile picture from then on.
Personally I think it is much fun to hear Curiosity ‘speak’ and I will be listening to her for at least two years _and hopefully many more after that.