Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Robot imitation experiments with children

I have spent much of the last few weeks pondering about the different ways in which I can show children the e-pucks imitating each other. I propose one of three different methods:

(1) Show the imitation video, ask the children what they think is happening and then show them the player stage animation film stating ‘this is what ‘actually’ happened’.

(2) Show the imitation video and the player stage animation film side by side.

(3) Show the imitation video alone.

However, I have concerns with all three methods. With the imitation videos alone, it is very hard to see the patterns (even when I know what I’m looking for!) From past experience, I have learnt that children will most likely give a response to a question regardless of whether they know the answer or not. Therefore will they just provide a response to please me? Conversely, if I show the children the player stage animation films, will I be ‘spoon feeding’ them with responses? Will I be making the patterns too apparent?. In addition, by demonstrating the imitation video next to the player stage animation film the children’s attention may be divided.

Another problem with robot videos is that it may not be as engaging as having embodied robots in front of the children. I suppose one might ask ‘Why don’t you take the robots to the children?’ Unfortunately, it is not a simple process of switching the robots ‘on’ and ‘off’. There are various tracking and logging pieces equipment that is only available at the robot lab.

After having a lengthy conversation with Andy (a fellow team member), he suggested that it may be possible for the robots to leave a ‘trail’ as they did the imitation. The benefit of that method instead of method number 2 (showing player stage animation film and imitation videos simultaneously) is that the children’s attention is less likely to be divided. This still however leaves the question of ‘am I making the patterns too obvious?’ The highlighted drawings (player stage animation) will clearly show that the robots are producing shapes. However, it is questionable as to whether children will associate this with imitation.


Frances Griffiths said...

These are all good questions. To find out how the children will respond we can try things out. By showing a group of children an e-puck (able to move around), a film of the e-pucks imitating (perhaps speeded up) and a film of the animation (with tracks showing and not showing). The children's responses might help us answer the questions you raise. Their responses might also indicate that none of these modes of presentation engage the children.

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