Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Soon kids will program robots before they walk!

"In late 2012, Vikas Gupta left his job as head of the consumer payments division at Google and set out to discover what he would do with the rest of his life. He'd recently had a daughter, and he knew his next venture would involve helping kids. Then he chanced across an article about Estonia, and how that country begins teaching programming to all children in first grade. He did a little research into the state of computer science education in America and was shocked to find how rare it was. So he set out to create a compelling way for children as young as four or five to start learning basic coding concepts.
The result was Play-i, a new startup building robots that it hopes will teach children about programming through play. The company is launching a crowdfunding campaign today to raise $250,000 for its first two models. "Thinking back on my own life, I began learning computer science at 14. I couldn’t imagine absorbing those programming concepts, at least the way I was taught them, at an early age," says Gupta, who serves as Play-i's CEO. "But research from MIT and Tufts showed pre-schoolers can grasp programming concepts, most just don’t have the right tools or framework provided to them."
The team at Play-i decided to avoid abstract concepts and the traditional focus on written code and syntax that are the core elements of most common programming languages today. "A lot of coding is about putting things in a sequence," says Gupta. "Ask a four- or five-year-old kid to write out a sequence, and they have trouble organizing a long string of commands. But if you reframe that as a song with lyrics, or a story with a narrative, children that age can create and remember long, complex sequences."
Kids interact with Play-i's robots, Yana and Bo, by giving them instructions. This can be through a tablet or smartphone, where they can drag and drop a sequence of commands. "As they do this, we can begin to introduce some other basic elements of coding, like the concept of loops, or an 'if this than that' instruction," says Gupta. Bo, which can play music on a xylophone, also responds to physical commands. "You can move him, and he will remember that motion, store it as a command, and allow you to play it back or insert it into a sequence."
Gupta assembled a team of hardware experts to help him build Play-i's robots. Co-founder Saurabh Gupta, no relation, is a former engineering manager at Apple who helped design and build 10 generations of iPods. And co-founder Mikal Greaves is a former of employee of Frog Design, where he led the engineering team on projects for Motorola, Disney, and Ford. "We're all programmers and engineers passionate about technology, but above all, we're parents," says Gupta. "We knew the biggest engineering challenge was keeping the robots affordable."


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Robot Actors - Awesome Educational Resource

We often think about robots as being cold and unemotional. But robots have great potential as a platform from which their human creators and masters can express feelings and ideas. A few visionaries have realized this, Disney's theme park amusements and movie makers, are some of the better examples. Education is an area in which this largely unexplored potential can see great advantages. There are 2 fronts on which this is likely true: 1) robots as teachers or teaching devices, and 2) making robotic resources available to students (along with instruction in how to use them) and challenging them to produce  robotic creations that express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in an affective way. See the article and videos below...

 "The Cornish robotic actor coming to a theatre near you: £55,000 Robo-thespian delights and offends audiences

- RoboThespian has in-built cameras, depth perception and facial recognition
- It can adapt its script to the audience during stage shows and guided tours
Several RoboThespians, however, have been attacked for causing offence
They may look more like Wall-E than the raging humanoid robots in 'I, Robot', but these thespian actors are certainly causing a stir.
RoboThespian is the creation of Cornish engineer Will Jackson who had an idea to develop an artistic robot that could react with its audiences. Six years ago he embarked on a project to create a robot that would save tour guides from tediously repeating the same script each day.
Today, around 35 RoboThespians are delighting theatre-goers and tourists throughout the world.
They are also trained to recognise gestures such as waving goodbye and are able to copy body poses. They are multi-lingual and can even sing. But not everyone is pleased with the humanoid robots. Jackson told Humans Invent how one RoboThespian was punched by someone in Germany..."

...The company claims that increasingly academic research groups and universities are using the robots in their research and development platforms...

...A restaurant in Seoul, where robots cook all the food and robots take your order, is also using RoboThespians as part of its operations. 
Meanwhile, three RoboThespians recently reached new artistic heights by appearing in a live stage show, the Legend of Robotland: Tria’s Star, featuring a completely robotic cast..."

Read the full article at its source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2382419/The-Cornish-robotic-actor-coming-theatre-near--55-000-Robothespian-delights-offends-audiences.html


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Yesterday's Science Fiction is Today's Robotics Reality

Science Fiction Theater was a late 1950's TV show. Here's an episode titled "Time Is Just A Place" that features a house  cleaning robot, a miniature X-Ray machine, and other innovative devices  from what seemed to be a fantastic, distant future when it aired. Take a look! You'll find the retro TV show production style entertaining. You'll also find it informative about the  emergence of technology and our attitudes about it.