Swiss “Handshake” Attracts Japan, Becomes Top Hit

Building on the innovative, partly physical, partly web-based project “Handshake” initiated by design duo AATB and swissnex Boston, a Switzerland-Japan-US online panel discussion was organized in collaboration with the Science & Technology Office Tokyo, Embassy of Switzerland in Japan. The tricontinental program resulted in “Japan” and “Tokyo” becoming the top two hits by far among destinations engaging with the Swiss demonstration which connected the world with real hand-shaped robots that could be accessed online for interaction with others.

The panel discussion entitled “Robotics and Intuitive Interaction” between AATB duo Andrea Anner and Thibault Brevet, Prof. Masahiko Inami of the University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, and Dr. Kate Darling, a leading expert in Robot Ethics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab was a third of a series of talks around the Handshake project. At a time when people had to remain mostly confined in Europe, Japan and the US, the discussion around how technology can expand the possibilities of engaging with others in nouvelle ways, the balance between traditional and new approaches as well as how art and design can spark creative thoughts around such issues, inspired many registrants; approximately the same number of people signed up as the series’ other discussions, despite the early morning start for US viewers and late starting time for Japanese participants due to time zone differences.

Handshake is an excellent example of how challenges bring about new opportunities. Replacing a physical exhibition planned in New York after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the City, AATB and the swissnex Boston team decided to go hybrid. Taking advantage of the global reach and the swissnex network’s mission to “connect,” Boston called on Tokyo to join hands. The outcome: approximately 500 additional cumulative visitors from Japan, not only from Tokyo but from the most southern islands of Okinawa to the northern tip of Hokkaido.

Furthermore, a recap of the event by Prof. Inami is suspected to have triggered numerous access from other Asian countries, in particular China and Korea, significantly broadening the reach of the project from Trans-Atlantic to Trans-Pacific. According to AATB, almost 50 people were constantly waiting in line to shake hands for two days after the panel discussion!