Robotics lab humming with summer scholar activity
Dylan Kidd and Beth Cave are among four Summer Research Scholars working in the CoEDL robotics lab, in the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE) at the University of Queensland this February. They are making a motion recorder for Opie, the child-friendly robot that is being developed to study social interaction between robots and children.
Opie has been through several prototypes with the latest prototype including moving arms. The motion recorder that Dylan and Beth are working on allows for the class teacher or student to show Opie how to move between various poses. Beth who is a computer science and arts student says she was attracted to the project because it seemed very applicable for use in the real world. “It has a tangible benefit and you can see your work paying off straight away because you can make something, demonstrate it and get feedback immediately,” she says.
Dylan agrees. “The coolest thing is that there are other people who are not robotic scientists or computer people who are interested in the project and come into the lab, such as the linguists and people from the Ngukurr Language Centre and provide us with feedback,” says Dylan.
Scott Frazier has worked over summer on an editor for creating interactive stories on a tablet. Opie has a tablet embedded in his torso that children can interact with. Scott’s editor could be used on any tablet. The idea is that the user takes a picture with the tablet and highlights interactive regions, which can then be touched by a child to either play a sound, make Opie move or advance a story.
“It’s a good opportunity to practice what I’ve learned in class but applying that to something that is practical, that can actually be used by teachers using a class robot,” says Scott. “The editor should make it easier for people who have potentially not used a computer before, to interact with the robot and the stories it tells on its tablet.”
Justin Luong is the fourth student. He is working on Graphic Processing Units (GPUs), which are normally used in gaming to display graphics to the screen but can also be used to optimise the use of algorithms. Justin’s application is focused on finding the shortest route between two points in a graph. For example, working out the degrees of separation between two people using Facebook or finding the fastest route between two cities.
Beth says working in the lab feels very collaborative. “Especially at lunchtimes we get input from people who might not necessarily be working on the project.” All students say it’s been great to be given such creative freedom.
Top image: Scott Frazier, Opie the robot, Beth Cave and Dylan Kidd