Assorted Cool Technology - 2012-02-12

Posted on February 12, 2012

Carrying on with the robotics trend, I’ve been looking a bit more carefully at ROS and I’m finding it to be a really nice development platform for me. The way it is designed to be so easily distributed makes my plans for a robot-house a natural fit for it. The integration with the rather inexpensive Arduino platform is also a plus. But more on that later, when I have something to show for it (if I ever do).

There is a study that came out a while ago, about the way children envision the integration of robots in school and which, I think, ultimately reflects the way they envision their integration on our society as a whole. I would recommend to everyone interested to go download the pdf file with the findings, as it contains some interesting insights.
Some of the findings clearly show how children tend to conceive of robots as special (as in very gifted) helpers and even as friends and protectors. In fact they go all the way towards humanizing them and expecting them to be part of their lives in a very close way. Robots, for them, wouldn’t be mere machines, but instead they would be their companions. Just like their friends, only sometimes more dependable and trustworthy.

And those expectations might just be the guidance we need in our current and future development efforts with these entities. Late last year, when I applied for the developer documentation package of the NAO robot, I was asked to describe a cool application for it and what I came up with at that moment was a kind of “guardian angel” robot for toddlers that while being a cute and interesting toy for them (have you seen the robot? it’s actually a beautiful piece of hardware) would also watch over them, trying to avoid dangerous situations if possible and alerting adults whenever necessary. This was a mere coincidence as I hadn’t known about this study by then, but it seems I was thinking along the right lines there. :-)

Anyway, it’s like Carlo Ratti says in the latest episode of the Robots Podcast, the best robots are the ones that do not look like robots, but the ones that become seamlessly integrated with us and our environment. We may still be a long way off, but that seems like a nice goal to have in mind.