Posts tagged social robots

Cynthia Breazeal: The rise of personal robots

This great TED talk Cynthia Breazeal expands further on one of the recurring themes of Robots and Avatars – the increase in personal and domestic use robots and the implications this may have for young people in particular. As a grad student, Breazeal wondered why we were using robots on Mars, but not in our living rooms. The key, she realized: training robots to interact with people. Now she dreams up and builds robots that teach, learn — and play. Watch for amazing demo footage of a new interactive game for kids.

Cynthia Breazeal founded and directs the Personal Robots Group at MIT’s Media Lab. Her research focuses on developing the principles and technologies for building personal robots that are socially intelligent—that interact and communicate with people in human-centric terms, work with humans as peers, and learn from people as an apprentice.

She has developed some of the world’s most famous robotic creatures, ranging from small hexapod robots to highly expressive humanoids, including the social robot Kismet and the expressive robot Leonardo. Her recent work investigates the impact of social robots on helping people of all ages to achieve personal goals that contribute to quality of life, in domains such as physical performance, learning and education, health, and family communication and play over distance.

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

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