Our project hopes to discern new patterns of behaviour emerging from robot interaction. A concern is that the robot team will be unable to discern new patterns – ‘unable to see the wood for the trees’. Might it be that children are able to see patterns that as the research team we would miss? One of our team members, Sajida Bhamjee, has taken e-pucks into schools and collected data on the children’s reactions to seeming them moving around. The e-pucks were programmed to follow each other by sensing each other’s tail light and following it. Due to variations in the environment, such as light levels, there was some variation in what they actually did. The e-pucks moved quickly and bumped each other. The children talked in interesting ways about what was happening and who was controlling it.
Our next step is to show children the robots imitating each other. It is difficult to set this up outside the robotics lab (not impossible but time consuming and technically challenging), so instead of taking the robots to the children we have filmed the robots. However, when they imitate they move slowly as you can see if you follow this link to the film on You Tube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hygWbKcAaTs
This might not interest children. Would it catch their attention if speeded up? The video is available for down load. Please try viewing the film speeded up.
From the data collected through the tracking equipment in the robot lab, and using ‘Player Stage’ software, the robots as seen in the film can appear as an animation with their tracks as if ‘drawn in the sand’. You can download a video of this. Below is the tracks they drew.
It maybe that the children would enjoy seeing the animation more than the film of the robots. There is also the question of whether the animation should show the 'tracks in the sand' or not.