DONA RobotGreat, now even the robots are out of work and panhandling for money!

Roboticists in South Korea have worked together with MIT Media Lab to create with DONA, a motion-sensing robot built to solicit street donations.

DONA’s makers are donating the robot’s earnings to fund education in the Ivory Coast, so you don’t have to feel like you’ve been suckered when you drop some coin into DONA’s cup.

DONA’s life began in a 72-hour workshop in Seoul, where a team including members of the MIT Media Lab worked together on simple projects by combining their expertise in engineering, industrial design, human computer interaction, and the social sciences. Given the time limit, DONA’s first phase was nothing more than a moving box with a cup that would shake periodically. Later that year, a doll was added to the mix that could tilt its head to curry favor with the masses.

The third version of DONA is the most sophisticated thus far. It can actually interact with people as they give it money. Ultrasonic range finders placed just above the donation box detect when someone moves in to drop some coin…DONA then responds bowing, blinking, waving, and wiggling its arms to say “thanks.”

Its neck now has much better articulation than the doll’s and it can now move its arms and hands separately.

Check out DONA in action below, in all its various phases of development.