José de la O’s RoboKumbia started as a joke:
When the Regional Dean asked me what academic project I wanted to develop for the next semester, I said straight away: A Cumbia Playing Robot! Cumbia is a type of music and dance that originated in Colombia and has since then spread all over Latin America. It’s very popular among low income social sectors and could be considered vulgar among highbrow rich people.
Personally it’s one of my favorite types of music.
Anyway, I was trying to be funny with the Dean – I mean, how ridiculous – a Cumbia Playing Robot? Right after I answered him, he looked at me straight in the eye and said, “OK. Do it”. So I was like, “Whoa! Now I have to deliver!”
Then, I started to ask myself what the academic justification for a Cumbia Playing Robot could be and it made perfect sense. On one hand, it would be a super fun incentive for Industrial Design students to generate and use technology, and on the other hand, it would be really interesting to speculate on how technology would look like if it was conceived in México, far away from the clichés of anodized aluminum, glass and white shiny plastic.
José de la O featured in a new interview from Cycling ’74