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Odi-1 - creating a helpful robot

Robots. The very essence of sci-fi and the centre of much debate as certain jobs become more automated. Whatever your stance on robots, they can be really helpful and they don't even need to be physical.

Stuart, who works on data projects and created our brand new website last year, made a 'robot' to automate some of the features of said website, such as keeping the events page synced with our Google Calendar and automating some of the numbers reported on our dashboard. This makes for a much smoother experience using and updating the website, giving us more valuable time for projects and giving users the most current and relevant version of our website. Huzzah!

Whether it's a part of the human condition to name things we create or something else, we felt compelled to give our little robot a name. So Odi-1 came into being as the ODI Leeds robot. It even had a GitHub entity all of its own. But we weren't content with a randomly generated avatar for our robot. Nope, it had to have a look, it had to have a presence, something to draw a smile from anyone who happened to stumble across it.

Then began the process of designing Odi-1.

Image of a robot character design
Odi-1 began life as a doodle. Concept by Amy Evans.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that Odi-1 is actually made up of the 'ODI' from our node network logo, and uses shades of grey from the official ODI brand guidelines. Grey might initially look a bit boring but there are several design reasons we chose grey - it's a neutral colour and goes with pretty much everything; it's not gendered; a lot of other robots are typically grey.

By this point, it was too late. Odi-1 had taken on a life of its own. We found other jobs for it, like appearing on our '404' error page, and then it became the star of our light-hearted data calendar for December. You can see a selection of Odi-1's various guises below.

Different versions of the same robot character
Character illustrations by Amy Evans

You might ask 'why?' Why would we create a little character? Data can sometimes be seen as quite dry and techie, so we wanted to start injecting a bit of personality and playfulness into it. We figured if Odi-1 made us smile then it would make others smile too. It would become memorable and accessible. The kind of work we do involves data but that doesn't mean it's just for data scientists. We encourage anyone who is even remotely curious about data to come along to events and find out more. If Odi-1 can be a part of that process, that's even better.