Archive for May, 2010

Want to find out about Avatars – make your own!

Robots and Avatars discusses and debates the future implications of using avatars within education and for young people; how they might or might not be best used to mediate identity or how we can think about collaboration with them but it is important not to forget that one of the best ways to find out about virtual presence is by making and using your own avatar. On the right is one I have just created! Alex - Avatar

The progression from experts having to create avatars to pretty much any user being able to experiment with virtual presence and virtual worlds has enabled a far greater integration of avatars, not just into our experience of using the web but also, into our everyday lives. The foremost environment for this is of course Second Life but avatars pop up all over the place – sometimes we don’t even realise that we are using them. Facets of more complex avatar identities found in Second Life and online gaming environments can be seen in much simpler terms on our Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts and more and more sites are asking you to create an ‘avatar’ as an important basis for communication via websites, in comment boxes and so on.

As security is a vital issue for students who wish to have an online presence Robots and Avatars seeks to find ways to open out the discussion and create new models for leaners around how to safely, creatively and intuitively empower them to make these decisions themselves. There is also another more playful and creative exercise in actual the creation of avatars themselves. Underpinning this is a consistent interplay between your ‘real’ self/identity and the virtual version you choose to put out there.

OSOQ100525300YTBelow are a series of tools that you can use to create an avatar to express your identity but still retain a degree of anonymity. These would be an excellent starting point for teachers and educators interested in integrating avatars into their lessons as they allow simple, playful and creative engagement with virtual identity. Robots and Avatars is just putting the final touches into a series of workshops which explore these sorts of issues in more depth and with key experts and professionals. To find out more about this check out our new education section.


Avatar Making Tools:

Osoq – A nice little tool to create an animated Avatar, plenty of options and works very well.

Simsonize Yourself – Have you ever wanted to be in the Simpsons?

Doppel Me – Creates a very life-like Avatar in no time at all.

Build Your Wild Self – Something a little different. This allows you to build an avatar which is half human half animal.

LegoMan – Create a lego version of yourself. Not as lifelike obviosuly and you need to do a screen print in order to copy the image as there is no way to export the image.

Meez – The most sophisticated tool which creates an animated avatar to use as your identity. There are a range of download options, if it cannot be embedded directly to your website you can download the file as an animated gif which can then be inserted as an image file.

Mikons – This site doesn’t allow you to create a personal avatar but rather a personalised icon (Mikon) which could be used to represent your students. This is a screen shot and well worth a look if you are looking to create an online presence/logo etc.

Evolver – A new site that allows you to create a 3D avatar. Complete control over the look and avatar can be saved as a static image or an animated Gif. There is also a function to upload a real photo of you. This site also offers access to a 3D world.

HeroMaker – Create your own superhero avatar.

Voki – allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages created by Oddcast

Avatar yourself – Oddcast is the leader in providing talking characters- a more sophisticated option over Voki. They produce tools for a range of marketing campaigns and they can be viewed as a collection by following the link. Simply upload a picture of yourself and begin.

Some sources from Web 2.0 in Education

Robot Resemblance

IMG_2279 (1)Little Island of Japan is a company that comes up with clone robots, and to date their efforts with robotic dolls have managed to bear a close resemblance to celebrities as well as politicians, being highlighted in TV shows as well as worldwide news.

For those who want a robotic avatar of yourself, it will take around 3 months from your order for the robot to be churned out and delivered right to your doorstep. These robots come with sensors built-in to detect when people are nearby, and are full well capable of waving its hands and saying a simple “Hello”. Each robot stands at 70cm in height and will set you back by a cool $2,200 after conversion.

Source: Ubergizmo

Anybots – Work Anywhere

qbCutoutOne of the central questions of Robots and Avatars is to ask what it would be like to collaborate with a robot in the workplace? Further, we are exploring what the implications of this would be for how we present ourselves to our colleagues in both physical and virtual space?

We wonder how it will be possible to envisage robots as colleagues and are incredibly excited by the potential in a hybrid between robots and avatars – ‘Robotars’ as Prof. Noel Sharkey calls it – which we think will help us push forward the possibilities for new and blended methods of work, play and collaboration in 10-15 years time.

Anybots a California based company who make telepresence robots announced the launch today of QB, the first professional-quality mobile proxy robot. QB is the first in a line of Anybots made to connect people and locations. Accessible from any web browser, QB represents you throughout the workplace from wherever you are.

Trevor Blackwell, Founder & CEO, Anybots says:
“Remote-presence robots add a new layer to the engagement available for a distributed workforce. The global Internet is now fast enough for millions of people to be streaming live video and 4G cellular data will soon be deployed everywhere — so in very short order, web-based robotics will no longer be limited to facilities with Wi-Fi.”

Hyoun Park, Research Analyst, Aberdeen Group
“By combining audiovisual telepresence with the freedom of robotic mobility and an easy-to-use remote control, Anybots has created a new level of remote presence. The QB telepresence robot provides the functionality needed for business processes without falling prey to the “uncanny valley” of discomfort associated with fully anthropomorphic robotic builds. QB could change the current model for remote interactions in research and development, corporate collaboration, retail, sales and customer service.”

Social Robots and Social Networks

(Image: Mixed Reality Lab/National University of Singapore)

A core theme of Robots and Avatars concerns how young people might negotiate their identities online in the future.  For many, the multi identities that virtual spaces create afford them a certain freedom.  This brings with it empowerment and new possibilities for the ways that they craft their social spaces. The energy and openness that many young people show when talking about these questions should certainly be celebrated but questions of online credibility, security and cyber-bullying must of course be discussed as well. Petimos, due to be launched later this year, are aimed at 7 to 10-year-olds and are designed to place checks on the processes of interacting online, particularly through social networks.

Children will only be able to accept new online “friends” if their Petimos are brought into physical contact first, to guard against cyberbullies and paedophiles masquerading as children. The devices work in conjunction with an online social network called Petimo-World in which they are represented by avatars. By squeezing their physical Petimos, or pressing buttons on them, children can send messages or “gifts” to their online friends.

Parents are notified each time a friend request is made and can block approaches that concern them, so children only see and interact online with the avatars of approved friends.

“Internet and text-based communication is only a small part of human communication that we have evolved with,” says the device’s inventor, Adrian David Cheok at the National University of Singapore. “I want to use new media to help develop more natural human forms of communication. Petimo is one step in this direction.”

A study published in January by the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation found 18 per cent of 8 to 10-year-olds in the US use social networking sites. My Secret Circle, Yoursphere and FaceChipz are sites used by children in this age group. Other surveys suggest that as many as 3 in 10 children have been subjected to bullying while online.

In March, leading UK police officers called on social networking sites to place a standard “panic button” designed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre on all pages.

Parents who took part in tests of Petimo in Singapore this year said the need for children to physically meet those who they wished to interact with online helped ease their fears about the risks posed by strangers.

While the devices will initially only be used with Petimo-World, Cheok hopes that eventually they could be used to provide safer access to other social networks.

Jennifer Perry of E-Victims, a group in the UK that helps victims of online crime, says the system’s appeal might be limited if children get bored with the restricted content of Petimo-World. “Children young enough to be content with a walled garden approach and its limitations will probably be too young to be seriously interested in the chat element,” she says.

Source: New Scientist

Mobile Phone Robot

calloCanadian researchers trying to integrate robots into our lives have come up with a pair of dancing, crying mobile phone ‘bots. The robots, called Callo and Cally, are mobile phones with limbs.

Cally stands about 18cm high and walks, dances and mimics human behavior. Callo stands about 23cm tall, and his face, which is a cell phone display screen, shows human facial expressions when he receives text-messaged emotions. When he receives a smile emoticon, Callo stands on one leg, waves his arms and smiles. If he receives a frown, his shoulders slump and he will cry. If he gets an urgent message, or a really sad one, he’ll wave his arms frantically.

PhD student Ji-Dong Yim and Prof Chris D. Shaw from the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Canada have collaborated to create a robot using the combination of Nokia N82 along with components from a Bioloid kit.

Along with an the ability to move in preprogrammed patterns when receiving phone calls from different numbers, robot is also capable to detect human faces using OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision). Robot uses wireless networking, text messaging and other interactive technologies to communicate human emotions. It’s a “simple avatar system” according to Yim.

The robot’s face, which is actually a phone screen, registers text-messaged emotions as human-like facial express.

“When you move your robot, my robot will move the same, and vice versa, so that we can share emotional feelings using ‘physically smart’ robot phones,” he says in an SFU release.

More videos here.

Robots on the Timetable at the Hi-tech High School

From BBC News – read the full article here.

San Diego’s high tech high school integrates robot making and gaming right into the heart of their curriculum. “Daisy May”, a waist-high robots that scuttles around, scooping balls off the ground and projecting them into a bin, has been designed by students at the school reached the semi-finals of an international competition.

The moment you walk into San Diego’s High Tech High you realise this is a school unlike most others.

Andrew Webb, BBC

David Berggren, High Tech High’s engineering instructor and the person responsible for integrating robots in to the curriculum explains that students “learn through doing, through experiencing, building and creating not so much out of lecturing and testing” and are able to balance their other subjects by learning how to “balance loads” which he thinks reflects how we operate when having to apply skills learnt in school in future jobs and workplaces.

You can read the full article by Andrew Webb Technology reporter, BBC News including videos of the students work here on the BBC News website.