Domestic Gubbins (Rethinking Machine Intelligence, Part 1)
Anab Jain and Alex Taylor, Microsoft Research, Cambridge, 2006-2008

The Domestic Gubbins form the first part of the project 'Rethinking Machine Intelligence'. They are four fictional objects, designed as video probes, in order to enter in conversations with people around their everyday ideas of intelligence.

The Gubbins have not been built to ‘work’, but instead assembled as objects to stimulate questions and direct future design. We have presented the Gubbins, for example, to people in their homes and used the results of interviews to reflect on what intelligence in machines might be like in an everyday mundane domestic context. This brought some insightful thoughts and reflections about how it can be quite problematic to assign inteligence to machines.


There are four Gubbins: Mimi, Bee, Pobel and Snip, and each of them has a specific fictional “artificial intelligence” function associated to it.

Gubbin Mimi has a big head and a memory. She is curious and likes to gossip. She takes pictures of mundane activities and makes her own comments and interpretations of those activities.
Gubbin Bee is a split personality and uses his two parts to measure sound, temperature, and such things in the home. When placed together, Bee interprets these measurements in his own way.
Gubbin Snip can be carried around while commuting. He has a unique ability to look around, sniff radio wave emissions from the environment and associate them to strangers in the vicinity.
Gubbin Pobel is normally quiet and patient. But when a plant near him is dying, Pobel plays music to it. Reminding us to take care and bring it back to life.
This video showing how the Gubbins could possibly become part of our everyday domestic life, was shown to people in London and Cambridge.
These responses, alongside interviews with experts, were recorded, and used as inspiration to think about possible design investigations. Several themes emerged, and the 'Near Future RFID', and 'Energy Autonomy' Projects were developed further. More about them through this page.