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“A wise robot once said to me through Serial.println- that robots teach us about ourselves.”

All posts tagged Robbie

Autism & Robots & Robbie the Robot

Robbie the Robot, a human-machine conversation computer program I developed, has the capability aid autistic children. I’ve been thinking about this intensely for the past few weeks. Today (March 28), much to my excitement, my favourite podcast – Talking Robots – features guest Kerstin Dautenhahn!

This is what they say about her…

Kerstin Dautenhahn who is Research Professor in the School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at University of Hertfordshire in the UK, where she is a coordinator of the Adaptive Systems Research Group. Autism is a developmental disorder affecting around 91 people in every 10,000, mainly causing difficulties in social interactions, communication and imagination. Using therapy robots in the AuRoRA project, Dautenhahn has been pushing autistic children to learn essential social skills such as turn taking, joint attention and imitation. Armed with a lot of patience and zeal, her team has been adapting their robots and therapy sessions to each individual child, whether it’s about playing with wheeled robots or Dautenhahn’s toddler-sized Kaspar humanoid. She also presents her new project on Interactive RObotic social MEdiators as Companions (IROMEC) which looks at how autistic children can learn to cooperate and interact with each other through the introduction of a robotic mediator.

So, I listened to the podcast a few times and took some notes…

  • A person with autism has several problems interacting with others
    • It’s a life-long development disorder

    • Problems social interaction and communication
    • Problems understanding facial expressions and body language
  • It’s a spectrum dissorder
    • You can have withdrawn people to very able people (different sides of the spectrum)
  • Children with autism enjoy interacting with robots as much as any other person. They’re realy fascinated by it. // This is a great fact, especially for the future development of Robbie the Robot
  • Since they were interacting with an autonomous robot, it was completely open! – No concrete hypothesis.
    • Found they are very very very interested

    • Enjoy interacting with it
    • No fear interacting with the robot or touching
    • They were smiling, and very keen.
  • Autistic children have problems with behaviours like joint attention and immitation. Designed trials, to test this. Particular aspects of behavioural aspects.
  • What they did in their work with a humanoid that was able to move its arms and legs:
  • Children could interact with robot by similarly moving arms and legs
  • Child became more interested, immitated the robot and innitiated the interaction
  • If the robot was unable to do that behaviour, child would try something different
  • Imagine not being able to know turns for conversations… turn taking in special need schools is what they are teaching // A key target for Robbie the Robot!

    Robots are not a replacement for people. // AGREED!
    Robots simplify!

  • Human-human interaction is very complex
    • Posture, body language, facial expression…

    • Tone, politeness, rules, queues
    • … we are to interpret them in a social way
    • For example: Do you know what time it is?
      Yes, it’s 4:30.
    • Social correctness is the last one
  • You need to interpret what you hear and interpret their behaviour
    • Very difficult for a person with autism

    • Humanoids are not as complex
      • That way, you can use one to slowly teach the child

      • First you need to connect, and get the child interested
  • Lots of results have to be published on how children can imitate or use joint attention
  • More clinical study is needed
  • Types of robots
    • Different types are suitable for different children

      • Low functional end – successful mobile robot engages attention. (Applied AI Systems).

      • Simple, robot moves around and has heat sensors and IR sensors
      • Chasing, tag, run around, etc. Very very very simple robot
      • More abilities, imitation … humanoid shape.
      • Designs and types of behaviours you want to explore.
      • Casper has facial expressions, it can turn its head, move arms, produce gestures, play peek-a-boo.
      • It really depends on what groups of children you are dealing with
      • Communication and interaction skills produce more challenges.
      • All in all, start with what you know about the child, and design objectives of trials for therapy for the children
      • Robots are individualized! This way, you can hope interaction capabilities develop
  • Challenges from the Robotics point of view
    • Nature – important that robot is predictable

    • Scenerios are unconstrained
    • Sensor system has 100% reliability
    • More autonomy
  • Summary of results
    • Children respond to a robot differently to a non-robotic toy

    • They are comfortable, they learn imitative behaviour, use robot to show joint attention
    • Emphasis on mediation aspect
    • Social mediator. 1 Robot, 2 children. Communication and interaction between the children
    • Collaboration is very difficult for a child with autism

    They use what they learn with the robot outside of the class.

  • Although solid evidence is needed, there is big potential.

    Robot assisted therapy is a growing area! Commercialize these robots. Here comes Robbie the Robot!

    After breezing through all of my notes taken during this podcast, it becomes extremely obvious that Robbie can fit snuggly in a robot assisted therapy with an autistic child that is able to communicate, but sruggles slightly to keep a conversation going.

    Now, the big question is how am I going to make Robbie to the point where it is extremely intelligent and can assist autistic children?

  • Use and exploit language models – be sure to include anything that can happen, as it might happen
  • Work on continuous speech recognition – this way sentences can be heard
  • Convert what is heard into a probable sentence – if what it said was wrong, the child might correct it, where then I can monitor and adjust it accordingly
  • Add some algorithms to advance the conversation according to the number of times Robbie has conversed with that particular child, and for how long — this way, Robbie will be able to ‘coach’ them to have a normal conversation — Once they are able to do so, they won’t need Robbie anymore! :)
  • Create a teddy bear, or bubble boy physical device to make it seem less frightening — however, that would have to be tested, as maybe they would be more frightening that just a laptop

    It definitely requires some thought, but I’m up for the challenge! ;D

    If this post made no sense, I highly recommend listening to the podcast itself, which can be found here, and the mp3 here.

Robbie the Robot – 100% Clean!

100% Clean!

Softpedia just awarded Robbie the Robot (version 022) a SOFTPEDIA “100% CLEAN” AWARD!

That’s pretty neat! I never knew they had those. Although, I have to admit, Robbie does have a virus … a virus to become potentially addictive! Ahah. :) But really, no viruses or spyware or adware. No memory leaks either! And it is 64 Bit. ;D

Well done Robbie!

Timeline of Events, Science Fair (Day 3)

Result day.

4:45 AM – 1234 by Feist! Woowoo! Stayed in bed because I was having a dream about talking to Robbie, have to finish the conversation…

4:50 AM – Awake

5:00 AM – Watch goes off! It gets louder as time passes.

5:09 AM – So, I played around with Arduino on Xcode on my other laptop last night. I’m figuring that the speaking character view, the one that makes Robbie open and close his mouth, could have a pipe which would lead to the terminal so it could go something like
cd theDirectory
make upload
Which would upload the program onto the Arduino.
I’m not exactly sure yet how I’ll have it talking … a wire running out of the back of the stuffed animal to the computer doesn’t sound like a good idea to me :S Maybe I’ll get a bluetooth Arduino and a small wireless microphone. So really, you could have a server farm (hacked Apple TV) in one room, with a big USB hub and multiple Robbies open so that many people in one room can converse with their open copy of Robbie. Only problem would be getting the Apple speech event handler to not be confused, esp as it blocks out all other applications. Maybe I could have Robbie record the sound (speech), then ‘parse’ it. While the computer would be processing, the stuffed penguin would move its arms up and down… hopefully the processing time wouldn’t be too long! But then again, if you have 20 of these stuffies running at one time, it is possible that the computer would run slowly…
Maybe I can create multiple Apple event listeners… I can see it now! The tiny blue bubbles all across the screen (wow).

5:21 AM – Goes downstairs to eat. Or at least try to. :)

6:17 AM – Left the house

7:00 AM – Arrived at the school

7:10 AM – No one is here, and there’s nothing to do, much o_o

4:30 PM – Awards ceremony

8:10 PM – Arrived home

All I can really say is that I’m extremely disappointed in the MRSTF – no comments from the judges (there were FIVE judges), 2 of them didn’t speak my language, and I’m sure even more didn’t even READ the report. How can I go from a project, last year – that compared a light sensor and touch sensor – to this whole Robbie Robot and do worse? It has so many possible future uses! I wasted A LOT of time, and more importantly I wasted A LOT of other people’s time. I did worse than failure, in my eyes. So if we learn from failure… does that mean I learned close to the ultimate answer? Lol!

That’s pretty much the way I am thinking about it. I have the ultimate answer, so I’m still going to work on robotics – but you’ll pretty much have to pay me to do another science fair after this one — or at least ensure that the judges are qualified. I’m planning to work on Robbie until I get to version 500. (By version 500 I hope to have continuous speech recognition). ^_^ Yay!

I’m going to go to the store today to get a bigger breadboard and some wires – and some squishy things… I’m going to make my own Keepon… I’m thinking of a pink snowman! With glitter! Haha.

Congrats to everyone that participated!

But, just to put this whole experience in perspective in one sentence- they stole our support our troops sticker off of our car.