One of our main research problems was whether we as humans can identify emergent patterns of behaviour within a swarm of robots. In order to assist in this interpretation, I demonstrated a video of e-puck imitation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hygWbKcAaTs (speeded up) and asked a group of ten children (aged 7-8) what they thought was happening in the picture. I specifically did not ask whether they can ‘spot any patterns’ as I felt that this was a leading question.
The majority response was that ‘the robots are making triangles’. Only one child stated that ‘they are copying each other’. I then showed the children the player stage video without tracks and subsequently with tracks. Whilst they were watching the player stage with tracks, one child remarked: ‘I think the robot people made the robots to make shapes but these robots can’t do it very properly so maybe the robot is broken. I think you need to take the robots back for the robot scientists to fix them’.
Even though the children were engaged in watching the video which indicates that they were not bored, their responses did not imply that any patterns were recognised. What does mean for our research? Are children not the best candidates for pattern spotting? Or maybe there are no patterns for children to spot.