bots IN BRIEF
DRAGON IT OUT
Dragons are typically giant, dangerous, and potentially scary. But
dragons can also be cute and fuzzy and cuddly. Researchers at
Northeastern University, Harvard, and MIT have gotten together and
invented a little robot dragon designed to appeal to preschoolers. Fans
of celebrity roboticists might recognize MIT's Cynthia Breazeal in the
photo (to the left) on the far left; also pictured are David DeSteno from
Northeastern (right), and Paul Harris from Harvard (far right).
The robot they're all fawning over is — believe it or not — a
descendant of Nexi — MIT Media Lab’s small humanoid. As you can see,
“Certain non-verbal cues like mimicking behavior to improve rapport and social bonding, or changes in gaze direction to
guide shared attention, are central. When kids learn from human teachers, these cues enhance the learning. We’re designing our
new dragon robots to be able to have these capabilities.”
Specifically, the dragon robot is designed to teach preschoolers
language skills. It's furry, extremely emotive, and the intention is that kids
will be able to develop an emotional connection with it. Once they trust
the robot like they would something that's actually alive, it'll be a much
more effective teacher.
At this stage, the dragon robots are going to undergo some
preliminary testing with preschoolers at MIT. Once the researchers figure
out what social cues are the most crucial to developing those emotional
bonds, the robots will venture out into the world as distance-learning
tools to help kids in rural areas learn their shapes, colors, numbers, and
This feisty little guy is a quadruped robot called SQ1. It's a project by
the South Korean company, SimLab. Their RoboticsLab simulation
software is being used to figure out how to get the quadruped to walk
without actually having to risk a trial-and-error approach on a real robot.
And it works!
This smaller robot is being used to test out different gaits that have
proven themselves in simulation, before the full-sized (and more
expensive) version tries not to fall over.
24 SERVO 12.2011