Washington: Scientists have developed a social robot that may help teach math to school children and can be customised with handcrafted materials, such as wood and wool. The team at Cornell University in the US envisioned robots built from warmer, homier materials that could be customised by their owners, so each would be unique. The robot dubbed Blossom is simple, expressive and inexpensive. It could be made from a kit and creatively outfitted with handcrafted materials. Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests'”We wanted to empower people to build their own robot, but without sacrificing how expressive it is,” said Guy Hoffman, assistant professor at Cornell University. “Also, it’s nice to have every robot be a little bit different. If you knit your robot, every family would have their own robot that would be unique to them,” said Hoffman. Blossom’s mechanical design is centred on a floating “head” platform using strings and cables for movement, making its gestures more flexible and organic than those of a robot composed of rigid parts. Also Read – Pak Army chief accompanies Imran at key meetings in ChinaPartly because of its simplicity, Blossom has a variety of potential uses, Hoffman said. Human-robot interaction researchers who are not engineers could build their own from a kit to use in studies. Due to the ease of interacting with the robot and the hands-on experience of helping to build it, it could help teach children about robotics. In a case study, children ages 4-8 had a chance to control and make accessories for Blossom at a science fair. Some children created accessories, such as appendages or jewelery, while others controlled the robot so the new items could be attached, illustrating how Blossom could inspire collaboration. Blossom will be used by some schools in Canada to help teach math to fourth-graders, Hoffman said. The team has also been working on an algorithm to make Blossom react to YouTube videos — performing a certain dance in response to a certain song, for instance, building on previous research showing that a robot’s response to listening to songs can influence a human’s reaction. This may be particularly useful in modeling behaviour for children with autism, Hoffman said. “It’s meant to be a flexible kit that is also very low cost. Especially if we can make it out of cardboard, you could make it very inexpensively,” he said. “Because of computation becoming so powerful, it could be a really open-ended way for people to do whatever they want with robotics,” he added.
Prof. Sharilyn Ingram’s knowledge of Canada will be tested on CBC Radio Sunday.Humanities professor Sharilyn Ingram will put Brock University on a national stage this weekend. She’s one of three academics who will duke it out in a pre-Canada Day quiz on CBC Radio’s flagship current affairs program, the Sunday Edition.The show was pre-taped with host Michael Enright earlier this month, though Ingram is sworn to secrecy about who prevails in the good-natured derby between herself, University of Calgary professor Rebecca Sullivan and Anthony Stewart of Dalhousie University.She says the experience was fun, if a bit nerve-wracking. The questions cover a broad range of topics, from history to geography and pop culture.“There are some very creative answers, and we all laughed a lot,” said Ingram, who teaches in the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture. “The quiz was meant to be a light-hearted look at all things Canadian, and I think it lived up to this goal.”Staging a quiz with contestants in three different studios across Canada has its challenges. She said each contestant was asked to bring their own noisemaker to signal their attempt to answer.“I learned that it was most important to be the first to get the noisemaker going, and only then worry about whether you knew the answer – which accounts for some pauses, as well as some wild guesses.”Ingram ended up on CBC through a twist of fate. At a recent social event in Toronto, a producer for the program was mentioning the search for an academic who is a good fit for a pop-culture quiz on Canada. A friend of Ingram’s was present, and the rest is history.“One of my former employees said I would be perfect – never defeated in Trivial Pursuit.”The quiz will air June 24 during the show’s final hour, between 11 a.m. and noon, on 99.1 CBC Radio One.