Robots are family :)

8 11 2007

As the noble Suroor mentioedthat I am somewhat of a technophile, but no a uncritical one of course, so let me show you a glimpse of the future. Researchers at UCSD had a 2 feet tall anthomophrbic robot interact with children from 18 months to 2 years old and the results were startling. After sometime the children started treating the robot as a peer. Here are some of its capabilities.

QRIO stayed in the middle of the room using its sensors to avoid bumping the kids or the walls. It was initially programmed to giggle when the kids touched its head, to occasionally sit down, and to lie down when its batteries died. A human operator could also make the robot turn its gaze towards a child or wave as they went away.

And here are some of the behaviors exhibited by the children which is indeed a fascinating read.

The researchers measured the bond between the children and the robot in several ways. Firstly, as with other toddlers, they touched QRIO mostly on the arms and hands, rather than on the face or legs. For this age group, “the amount of touching is a good predictor of how you are doing as a social being”, Movellan says.

The children also treated QRIO with more care and attention than a similar-looking but inanimate robot that the researchers called Robby, which acted as a control in the experiment. Once they had grown accustomed to QRIO, they hugged it much more than Robby, who also received far more rough treatment.

A panel, who watched videos of the interactions between the children and QRIO, concluded that these interactions increased in quality over several months.

Eventually, the children seemed to care about the robot’s well being. They helped it up when it fell, and played “care-taking” games with it – most commonly, when QRIO’s batteries ran out of juice and it lay down, a toddler would come up and cover it with a blanket and say “night, night”. Altering QRIO’s behaviour also changed the children’s attitude towards the robot. When the researchers programmed QRIO to spend all its time dancing, the kids quickly lost interest. When the robot went back to its old self, the kids again treated it like a peer again.

So next time you see a robot be nice. One day when robots are intelligent enough then there may even be religiously inclined robots, who knows? Sufi Robots anyone?

P.S: Suroor, sister now you know what to get Rayyan as a birthday present.

Hand Held Calculator Turns 40

28 09 2007


Geeks of the world rejoice and celebrate – the hand held calculator is 40 years old now and it was invented by Texas Instruments, a name which is familiar to most Engineering and Computer Science students. This was another important milestone in the history of computing and some would argue us slackers but I would defend those scientists and engineers who worked in slackerization (is that a word?) of culture. Imagine how would you have survived in those engineering classes without the awesome device known as the calculator.