Dancing with Robots – Science and Technology Research News


Engineering teacher Keith Williams, left, works with trainees on setting their robot to follow commands. (Photos by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Laughterand concerned sharp consumption of breath periodically muffled the subtle whirr of servo motors as groups of very first- year University of Virginia engineering trainees registered in an initial course from another location choreographed the motions of 2- foot- high humanoid robots.

The trainees directed the French- made NAO (noticable “now”) robots– which include stocky legs, narrow hips, high shoulders and hands with 2 fingers and a thumb– to dance, often to music. One maker moved its weight onto one leg and gradually kicked the other one out to the side, and then changed legs. After it finished the maneuver, it moved its arms back and forth and around. Then the NAO rocked a bit and fell over backwards, with a trainee capturing it from behind prior to it struck the soft mat on which it had actually been dancing.

Aside from dancing, trainees set the devices to call hand bells and shake maracas, and one group even attempted to configure its robot to play a toy piano. On their commands, the trainees’ robot stood, extended its arms and then carefully brought its fists down on the keyboard, similar to a human baby might.

KeithWilliams, an associate teacher of electrical and computer system engineering and director of UVA’s initial engineering program, selected to begin these very first- year trainees with finished robots, rather of having them construct them from scratch, since he stated it is necessary for the trainees to see what they can ultimately attain and encourage them to grab the cutting-edge.

The trainees worked with their humanoid devices for a number of classes. Graduate trainee Sid Shenoy opened the very first session with a video discussion on the NAO robots, followed by a quick introduction video of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency robotics competitors in which devices were set to finish a series of jobs, such as opening a door, strolling over an irregular surface area, turning a valve, and driving and leaving an automobile.

Williams then lost consciousness boxes including the robots; the trainees eliminated the devices, raising the $8,000robots carefully under the underarms and nestling their heads as if they were newborn babies.

“It’s a lot more difficult than it looks,”Williams stated as the trainees gathered in groups on the flooring, switching concepts and ideas and punching commands into their laptop computers. “Human interactions are a lot more robust than human/robot interactions. The students have to think through every subtle piece of the human-robot interaction.”

“This teaches students how hard it is to get a robot to do anything,” stated Joanne Dugan, another teacher of electrical and computer system engineering who utilizes the robots with upperclass trainees. She very first saw the NAO robots at a scholastic conference dancing to the Korean pop hit, “Gangnam Style.”

Workingwith robots teaches the brand-new trainees team effort; they take turns dealing with a laptop computer, protecting the maker from falling or holding up things for the maker to “recognize.”

“We all take different roles on our team,” stated Jack Smith T, from Birmingham, Alabama, whose group was setting its robot to play a toy piano. Smith T typed commands into the computer system while a colleague observed how the maker responded to each brand-new order and another colleague hovered over the NAO to capture it if it need to fall.

The devices have the capability to respond to any things that pass prior to their “eye” sensing units. Students waved various things in front of them, and the robot’s eyes altered color when it “recognized” something. One trainee held a red plastic orb in front of her maker and the NAO stated, “That’s a tomato” over and over, as long as the trainee held the item in its line of vision. (Another employee recommended they configure the robot to state that in French, to break the uniformity of the repeating.) Teams established white boards backgrounds in the robots’ field of vision, so the devices would not be sidetracked by background motion.

One sports- minded group looked for to advise its maker to putt a large plastic golf ball utilizing a hollow plastic golf club clutched in one mechanical hand. The group battled with the programs problems of gently jerking the robot’s arm to tap the ball into an upright hole.

Teaching the trainees to program humanoid devices provides an understanding of the subtleties needed for even brief, basic motions; since the devices have arms, legs and a head, it is simple for the trainees to anthropomorphize them.

“That aspect humanizes the technology, and makes it more approachable,”Williams stated.

“It is a way to have a discussion about the societal implications of robot-human relationships,”Dugan stated. “‘Are these things going to take away my job?’ They walk through every step of the human/robot relationship, and because the robots are human-shaped, we expect more sophisticated behavior from them.”

Williams stated he sees the devices and their abilities as more of a property to mankind than a risk.

“I think they are going to bring a growth of productivity,” he stated. “I see them magnifying human capabilities, rather than replacing them.” He pointed out innovations such as FarmBot, which is developed to manage farming labor jobs.

The trainees admired their robots and their capability to move, to step best or left at a set of commands and wave their arms in a balanced way, however at the exact same time, the trainees extended their hands around the vulnerable devices, as if the devices were kids, alert to capture them if they wobble and threaten to topple.

dancing robotsGraduate trainee Sid Shenoy shows to very first- year engineering trainees how to configure the brief NAO robots.

Although they are very first- year engineering trainees, for some this is not the very first intro to robotics. Anne Forrest Butler experienced robots in her Charlotte, North Carolina, high school.

“We built a robot in six weeks,” she stated. “I really loved it and it is fun to do it again. I would like a career using robots to build rockets.”

Butler’s employee pleased themselves with getting their devices to acknowledge things and track them as they move and to configure the maker to shake a hand bell.

“We are learning teamwork and patience,”Butler stated.

One maker in the center of the space fell over on its cushioned mat and the class fell quiet as trainees craned their necks to see if the robot had actually been harmed. It appeared unscathed.

NicoleBeachy of Midlothian stated her group believed it would be enjoyable to have their robot dance to music from the 1990 s and they set it to relocate to “The Macarena.” It went through the regular twice and the 2nd time, it tipped over at the end.

“This is a cool experience,”Beachy stated. “I haven’t been exposed to this before. These machines have a lot of power and there is more we can do with them.”

Source: University of Virginia

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