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Humanoid Robots Interviewing Children

Posted 25 Mar 2013 at 23:08 UTC by steve

The KASPAR humanoid robot, developed at the University of Hertfordshire has previously been used in studies of human robot interaction with normal and autistic children. We reported in 2007 on KASPAR being used to teach social skills to autistic children. According to a recently released paper, KASPAR is now being used by researchers interested in finding out if children interviewed by a humandoid robot respond in the same way as to human interviewers. In particular they wanted to find out if children would be more or less willing to disclose information to robots. The results surprised the researchers, who had expected to see some preference in the children for either robots or humans. From the paper:

The results were contrary to our expectations. Rather than having a clear preference, the children behaved very similarly towards either of the interviewers (human/robot). The children used similar amounts of words, keywords and filler words when responding to both the robot and the human interviewer. There was also very little difference in the amount of words the children used relative to the amount of words the interviewer used. These findings illustrate that the children communicated with the robot in a similar way to which they did the human interviewer.

They did find one interesting difference. Their measure of the children's eye gaze reveals they spent much more time looking at the robot's face during interviews than they did with human interviewers. For all the details, read the paper by Luke Jai Wood, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Austen Rainer, Ben Robins, Hagen Lehmann, and Dag Sverre Syrdal, titled Robot-Mediated Interviews - How Effective Is a Humanoid Robot as a Tool for Interviewing Young Children?.

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Aquatic Robotics

Robotic Ocean Cleanup Arrays

Posted 25 Mar 2013 at 20:35 UTC by steve

Boyan Slat has launched the Ocean Cleanup Foundation to develop safe methods of cleaning the billions of tons of plastic that humans have dumped into the world's oceans, where they are poisoning the food chain. His solution involves arrays of booms that would direct small plastic particles into robotic collection platforms. The arrays would be anchored along the radius of the ocean gyres where the massive plastic garbage patches form. The arrays are powered by ocean currents and the booms allow sea life to safely avoiding being trapped. Even better, researchers estimate the system could collect as much 7.2 billion kg of plastic (around a third of what's out there) in a form that could be profitably recycled. From the projects website:

Is it the perfect solution? No. We will be able to retrieve billions of kilograms of plastic from the oceans, but that still won't be 100% of what's in the world's oceans. We’ll need a combination of extraction from the oceans and prevention on land in order to succeed. One of the problems with preventive work is that there isn’t any imagery of these ‘garbage patches’, because the debris is dispersed over millions of square kilometres. By placing our arrays however, it will accumulate along the booms, making it suddenly possible to actually visualise the oceanic garbage patches. We need to stress the importance of recycling, and reducing our consumption of plastic packaging. Furthermore, by developing systems that will intercept plastic before it reaches the sea, we hope to further reduce the impact of plastic on the oceans.

For more see the Ocean Cleanup Project FAQ, see the Wikipedia article on Marine Debris, and for other robotic solutions for cleaning up the plastic, see Resources relevant to sampling and removal of plastic from oceans. Read on to see Boyan Slat's TEDxDelft talk: How the oceans can clean themselves.

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Best Robot Photos of the Week

Posted 19 Mar 2013 at 21:24 UTC by steve

Today's edition of best robot photos of the week includes a vintage Armdroid 1, a robot from SXSW, two Comic Con robots, a Barcamp robot, and a few other oddities. Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!

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Random Robot Roundup

Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 20:14 UTC by steve

We've got two weeks of random stories to unload from the editor's inbox, so let's get started! The University of Michigan says roboticists have a lot to learn from cockroaches. Researchers at Purdue think they're onto a solution for the dendrite problem that causes lithium-ion batteries to explode, and it could make batteries safer, while allowing higher energy densities and faster charging. While we're celebrating better batteries, it's a good time to mention the Raspberry Pi's first birthday party. They're having a webinar on new accessories to celebrate (they've already had their cake). Also, via the FreeIO.org website, Eben Upton's keynote address at PyCon. Roboticists at CMU have been busy robotically disassembling Oreo cookies. MIT is happy about their team of Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali winning the Turing Award for their work in cryptography and complexity theory. AUVSI has released a new study finding that (surprise!) AUVs are good for the economy and will create 70,000 new jobs over the next three years. A reader asked us to remind you about Tekkotsu, a nice Free Software framework for robotics development and education, check it out. Mario Tremblay wrote a blog post over at the RobotShop claiming that "all sciences lead to robotics". Our friends over at the IEEE Spectrum Automaton blog have an interesting post on brainless bristle-bots exhibiting swarm behavior. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. Don't forget to follow us on twitter and Facebook. And now you can add us to your Google+ circles too.

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Robohub: The use of robots in warfare

Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 16:31 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

two BigDogs controlled by single operator

For the latter half of this past week, the focus at Robohub.org has been the use of robots in warfare. This event was launched with an editorial including links to related posts, both new and older, and to responses from the Robots by Invitation panel of experts to the question "How will robots shape the future of warfare?"

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Robots Podcast #125: Kate Darling, Giving Rights to Robots

Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 17:07 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Kate Darling

In episode #125 (March 8, 2013), Robots Podcast interviewer Sabine talks with Kate Darling, an Intellectual Property Research Specialist at the MIT Media Lab. She recently wrote a paper on “Extending Legal Rights to Social Robots” where she asks if we should consider protecting robots that connect with us on a social level. She tells us about a recent Pleo robot torture session she organized as part of a workshop at the Lift Conference and the class she taught at Harvard Law School on “Robot Rights”.

Read On | Tune In

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CMU Reveals Details of CHIMP Humanoid

Posted 13 Mar 2013 at 19:41 UTC by steve

You may recall from our article on the latest DARPA Robotics Challenge that one of the CMU teams was planning to build a humanoid robot named CHIMP, for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform. The contest is very ambitious, calling for humanoid rescue robots that can break through concrete walls, climb ladders, open doors, and use power tools designed for humans. CMU's Tartan Rescue team has now released details of their design. CHIMP combines features of humanoid robots with elbow and knee mounted track drives, allowing the robot to walk, climb, or resort to older style skid steered tank-like drive. The front limbs have human-like jointing and mobility. From the news release:

CHIMP will be able to perform complex, physically challenging tasks through supervised autonomy. A remote, human operator will make high-level commands controlling the robot’s path and actions, while the robot’s on-board intelligence prevents collisions, maintains stability and otherwise keeps the robot from harm. The robot also will be pre-programmed to execute tasks such as grasping a tool, stepping on a ladder rung or turning a steering wheel without step-by-step direction from the human controller, circumventing the lag between command and execution.

The team optimistically claims CHIMP will have "near human strength and dexterity" and that the robot will be able to adapt its motion to changing circumstance so that "in a pinch, it can do anything". We look forward to seeing prototypes of this robot and wish Team Tartan luck with their project. For more details, check out the Team Tartan CHIMP website.

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Best Robot Photos of the Week

Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 20:16 UTC by steve

Today's edition of best robot photos of the week includes two Standford robots that may help advance the state of the art in planetary exploration robotics, we also have a variety art robots, images of children and adults fascinated by robots, and an evil invading robot whose plans were thwarted by fog. Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!

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Military Robotics

DARPA Plans Long Range Ship-launched UAVs

Posted 11 Mar 2013 at 23:02 UTC by steve

Acronym-happy DARPA has announced the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program to launch Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) fixed-wing unmanned aircraft (UAVs). So what is the TERN MALE UAV program? A fleet of long-range UAVs (flying robots or "drones" as the media like to call them) that can be launched from nearly any US Naval vessel. The UAVs could be recovered by any other TERN equipped vessel, not necessarily the same one that launched the vehicle. From the announcement:

“It’s like having a falcon return to the arm of any person equipped to receive it, instead of to the same static perch every time. About 98 percent of the world’s land area lies within 900 nautical miles of ocean coastlines. Enabling small ships to launch and retrieve long-endurance UAVs on demand would greatly expand our situational awareness and our ability to quickly and flexibly engage in hotspots over land or water.”

Among the technical challenges noted in the announcement for this type of flying robot launch and recovery system: launching from small ships in rough seas, designing a UAV comparable in range to existing models but meeting the requirement of a maritime environment, the system must require only reversible modifications to ship and minimal personnel. For more information, you can check out the TERN program notice from DARPA Tactical Technology Office.

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Get Ready for Brain Awareness Week

Posted 8 Mar 2013 at 21:35 UTC by steve

Brain Awareness Week starts on 11 March and organizations all over the world are preparing educational activities to highlight the importance of continued research into one of the most advanced and complicated machines we know of. As roboticists, we have a special interest in the workings of brains because the ultimate goal of robotics is to produce similar thinking machines. But there are many other reasons to study the brain. From a Virginia Tech news release: Brain Awareness Week will highlight the wonders of nature's most remarkable machine

"[the human brain is] a portable supercomputer that requires only the wattage of a dim light bulb to run and yet can decode ancient languages, invent fictional worlds, and distinguish friend from foe" ... "All brains - including those of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals - are complex organs that represent the pinnacles of the evolutionary process, capable of performing demanding tasks more efficiently and effectively than any machine. And each brain has evolved the exquisite adaptive capacity to extract, decipher, and act upon information in the world that is essential to survival.

The DANA Foundation has lots of Brain Awareness Week resources and tools available for educators. There's even a Brain Awareness Week Facebook page. Over 800 local events are planned around the world as part of Brain Awareness Week. Search the BAW calendar for one near you. The VTC Research Institute will host a lecture called "Mythbusters: The Truth about Your Brain" where they will debunk brain myths like the idea that humans use only 10% of their brain. The University of Washington plans a Neuroscience for kids event. The Brain Development Lab at the University of Oregon will have a Brain Awareness Expo for families. UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas plans a full week of neurology events for their medical students. If you can't find anything in your area, consider a trip to the coffee shop to enjoy one of the brain's favorite drugs. Incidentally, today's article is illustrated by a woodcut of the brain of mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss

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