Unique KNITTED robots are being used to help teach maths to schoolchildren – and every family could soon have one of the cute machines, scientists claim
- Project between Cornell University and Google could aid children’s learning
- The creators also believe it may help countless children who suffer with autism
- Called ‘Blossom’, it’s dressed in homely craft materials to endear young users
Personalised ‘social’ robots dressed in knitwear and with could soon replace stern school teachers.
That’s the vision of engineers at New York’s Cornell University, who’ve devised a new machine that can help tutor children in maths.
Called ‘Blossom’ the project involves using robots which look less like the traditional droids we are accustomed to and replaced it with a home-made and personal machine.
It is part of a research project using machine learning to react to YouTube content and was built using Google’s TensorFlow which emulates human thinking through pre-programmed speech recognition.
Personalised ‘social’ robots dressed in knitwear and with could soon replace stern school teachers. That’s the vision of engineers at New York’s Cornell University, who’ve devised a new machine that can help tutor children in maths
Meet Blossom! The project between Cornell University and Google Creative Robotics could aid children’s learning and even aid social skills for those living with autism
The 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.
Intended to be low-cost for maximum accessibility, it’s also handcrafted with homely materials, such as wood and wool, to make it more endearing.
Partly because of its simplicity, Blossom has various potential uses, says Guy Hoffman, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, who led the design.
‘We wanted to empower people to build their own robot, but without sacrificing how expressive it is.
‘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.’
Human-robot interaction researchers who aren’t engineers could build their own from a kit to use in studies.
In a case study, children aged 4-8 had a chance to control and make accessories for Blossom at a science fair.
Some children created accessories, such as appendages or jewellery, while others controlled the robot so the new items could be attached, illustrating how Blossom could inspire collaboration.
Structure: The mechanical design is centered on a floating ‘head’ platform using strings and cables for movement, making its gestures more flexible and organic than usual robots
In the coming months, Blossom will be used by the Upper Grand school district in Ontario, Canada, to help teach maths to fourth-graders, Hoffman said.
He said his team also has 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 might be particularly useful in modelling 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.
‘Because of computation becoming so powerful, it could be a really open-ended way for people to do whatever they want with robotics.’
The study is published in the Association for Computing Machinery Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction.