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Robots spotted in the wild: Bellabot by Pudu

In hindsight, I regret not blogging more about robots I’ve discovered on my travels and in working situations. This is where my joy and enthusiasm about the robots really gets fuelled, when I interact with them spontaneously. Recently with friends at our favourite Asian restaurant (Mchi in Ijburg – FYI the food was great and each plate left empty!), we encountered some Bellabots working as assistants to the restaurant staff. I was with my buddy Vikram Radhakrishnan, who is also crazy about robots and my partner Renze de Vries, who has made quite a few robots himself – check out his Youtube channel here). We worked on the Anki Vector project together back in 2019 – time flies when you’re in lockdown. Imagine our excitement to find these amazing robots serving dinner to patrons as if it was the most natural thing in the world! That really made our day!

These robots are also super cute – they have cat ears and when the service screen is not displayed, it shows a cat face. We’re all crazy about cats so our minds were completely blown by these robots.

Vikram interacting with the robot, under supervision from really friendly staff.
Two robots performing different functions

These robots have collision avoidance, they were able to avoid the waiting staff, and they are programmed with table numbers and the dishwasher location for example. One also played happy birthday in Dutch for one of the tables as you can see but not hear properly in the video below:

Well, you know, by now I’m really excited to know more about the technology and company behind these robots so here goes:

Bellabot Youtube Channel

Here are more products from Pudu

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting this new robot with me.

Thanks and see you next time.

Emotions in Robots – Prof Hatice Gunes for the Royal Institute

I recently subscribed to the Royal Institute lecture series, and when I am able to catch some of the lectures, the content and moderation is always incredibly good. You can watch the Royal Institute’s videos on Science here on Youtube.

Go to their website to watch some of these talks live.

Lately, I saw an excellent lecture on Creating Emotionally Intelligent Technology by Professor Hatice Gunes, the Leader of the Affective Intelligence & Robotics Lab at the University of Cambridge.

Here is a link to the recording if you’d like to watch the video yourself: Vimeo video link

To start off, Prof Gunes does an amazing job of introducing emotions in technology, the work up to now, and why we’d want to achieve this goal. She then covers the work that her own lab has been doing to take the field further, and this is quite interesting.

Emergent behaviour when programming technology that interacts with humans

Prof Gunes draws our attention to the awareness of the emergence of co-behaviours between humans and robots. She explains that when we interact with machines, we create models for behaviour. Since we cannot capture real life accurately in a model, the results are imperfect. When these models are released into the wild and we interact with them, there can be unintended outcomes – we adapt our normal behaviour to what we experience in the model. In this way, robots change human behaviour, and there is emergence of new behaviours which the creator of the robot did not anticipate.

Experiments done by Prof Gunes’ lab:

London eye interaction with human emotions

  • People’s emotions tended to be more complex than what the experiment designers predicted

Robot waiters in a restaurant

  • People tend to be uncomfortable with the robot waiter being behind them

Nao robot being taught complex facial expressions by children

  • How to express complex emotions that look different on each individual’s face?

A set of avatars or artificial characters designed to exhibit specific personality characteristics

  • An annoying character which tries to have a conversation with you but contradicts what you say, trying to elicit an angry response from you.

She suggests that we should adopt an attitude of lifelong learning in working with robots, to learn from our interactions with them and be open. Especially for non safety-related applications she asks that we are more tolerant.

Conclusions:

For me, it’s reassuring to know that the field of emotions in technology is progressing although we haven’t seen an increase in social consumer robots in recent years. It was certainly interesting to reflect on emotions and other technologies besides robotics, like AR/VR, virtual computer agents and even a monument like the London Eye. Prof Gunes’ work covers a fascinating breadth of topics which should make for interesting reading for the coming months.

Looking back on Halloween Jam ’20

Soft launch done and dusted

Well, its finally come and gone, my first two workshops for Halloween 2020! My two main goals were that everyone have fun and learn something, and we succeeded on both accounts.

Mixing it up

We had a variety of participants in both groups, in all age groups, and all abilities and knowledge levels. The first group was unknown to each other, with two people working together per kit, and the second was a family group – both were load of fun to share this experience with.

The learning curve

To speed things up, I will create some supplementary content about the basics of sewing. Working with wearables components (Lilypad and Adafruit) was a lot easier than I anticipated. I noticed that the learning curve of the workshop was steep until we got to the electronics part, thereafter it was just repetition of the same skills. In the future I would either do a design that requires less work after the initial learning phase or teach the basic skills separately upfront. I might also do different difficulty levels, so a basics course before you attempt a bigger project.

Fun is the name of the game

Look at how fun this was, I just loved it! 🥰

Overall I’m super happy with the result, I had the best soft launch I could have asked for with lovely people and had great fun. I could see everyone learning and feeling good about it.😍

The magic of creation

When you make something that does something, like an object that lights up, it feels like magic! And I affirmed for myself that the main goals of the sessions should be learning, fun and confidence building. Also I was amazed at how different everyone’s pumpkin turned out – wow, we humans are all so varied and amazing, and everyone has so much creativity in them!

Looking forward

I have a ton of ideas on future workshops and improvements but this has been an exciting start and I feel good about the future.

Preparation for Halloween Jam ’20

Well this is an exciting time for RoboRabbit-Labs! The first electro-craft workshops will be happening this week, with a Halloween theme!

Why Halloween?

Well 2020 has been a challenging and even dark year for many. With the full moon on Halloween this year, its probably a good time to sweep out the old and usher in the light and good vibes. Halloween of course provides a great opportunity to allow fun into our lives and offers some iconic characters to play with like Jack-o-Lanterns of course, but also black cats, mummies, zombies, werewolves, ghosts and witches. It’s a time when we get to play with these scary themes and restore some balance to our world.

Felted Jack-o-Lantern

The Jack o Lantern came together as a project pretty quickly. I used the idea behind the Octopus, and simplified it by removing the controller board, the LilyTiny. I decided to make it more widely appealing by hiding the electronic components behind the eyes and mouth, and making the conductive thread lines blend in with the embroidery pumpkin grooves.

The test session

My lovely assistant and boyfriend, robotics and electronics enthusiast Renze, donated two hours of his weekend to help me test the Video conferencing and assembly process. The most challenging part for him was learning to sew! Details like threading the needles, and the tendency of the conductive thread to get kinks delayed his efforts. However, he visibly enjoyed making something that worked and lit up in the end, and was impressed that he could actually make a successful product, despite how foreign the construction was. Also, he now has a cute ornament of his own making to keep him company in his office.

Posting the kits

Today I will send the last of the kits out for this week’s sessions. It’s incredibly exciting to fill the padded envelopes, stick the addresses on and perform the last checks for completeness. It feels like sending presents out, which I love doing. I hope I can include more little gifts in future kits. This time I was able to include a second battery so that participants can make their own project with the remaining 3 LEDs and conductive thread.

European Robotics Forum 2019

RoboRabbitLabs

ERF2019 took place at the Marriott hotel in Bucharest. As usual, the event was divided into workshops and an exhibition area with different robot-related organisations represented, including European organisations, robot and parts manufacturers, technology hubs, universities and governmental institutions. Check out my post on ERF2017 here.

The main topics for this year included:

  • Robotics and AI
  • Robotics in industry, logistics and transport
  • Collaborative robots
  • Ethics, liability, safety, standardization
  • Marine, aerial, space, wearable robotics

Robotics and AI

ERF2019 and ERF2017 were miles apart in terms of the awareness of AI. The EU has identified AI as a key area to remain competitive with the US and China, and have allocated a large amount of funding to AI. Lighthouse domains for investment include agrifood, inspection and maintenance and healthcare.

They seek to build partnerships across Europe, identify the key players and increase synergies between member states. They have setup a collaboration…

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