Here, Nik Melchior (left), a fifth year B.S./M.S.
student in computer science and engineering,
helps create the programming framework that
allows others to command Lewis. Shannon Lieberg
(center) of the Engineering class of ‘04, works Lewis’
controls with Assistant Professor Bill Smart.
Full frontal view of Lewis.
robot was programmed to take
frequent pictures of human faces even
when it may not have had the
opportunity to focus in for a good
picture. To better interact with
subjects, the robot should have the
ability to communicate which mode or
“state” it is in to the subjects. So, if
the robot is available to interact, it can
communicate that, and so on.
Photographic subjects expected
the robot to respond when waved at,
like a human being would. However,
the robot didn’t have this capacity
either. When the robot did seem to
react — because it turned toward
someone by sheer coincidence when
someone had waved at it, for example
— people thought this meant it was
more intelligent than it actually was.
In particular, when the camera
pointed in their direction coincidentally in response to trying to
hail the robot, this was mistaken
for eye contact.
Lewis seemed intelligent to
people when he did what
appeared to be a double take.
Because the robot face detection
code was not optimized, the camera panned past the faces and
beyond by the time the software
determined it had detected a
face. The camera then returned to
focus on the face for the picture.
This apparent “double take”
humanized the robot in the eyes
of on-lookers, attracting people to
interact with the robot.
Likewise, other robot
behaviors made the robot appear
not so smart, even though these
behaviors were quite intelligent
for a robot in what they
accomplished. One such behavior
was looking at the wall (pointing its
camera toward the wall) or moving
along a wall in order to aid in its
navigation. While the robot was
trying to get its bearings, it appeared
not to “see” anyone around it, and so
Continued research based on
Lewis should address whether Lewis
truly functions in two separate modes,
whether the level of sophistication of
the people interacting with Lewis has
an impact, and whether the robot or
the people around it should drive its
Lewis, the Robot Photographer
The Media and Machines Lab
Washington University in St. Louis
14 SERVO 07.2008