Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Keepon Dances to the Beat

Keepon keeps on dancing, helping children while doing it.


Posted by Karen Cochrane

Greetings, earthlings. Alexandru here. Today I present our latest guest writer, the amazing Karen Cochrane who will be discussing a robot that not only helps children with developmental problems, but has rhythm too. Informative video inside:


Photo: Keepon robot by Marek Michalowski & Hideki Kozima
Even though it became popular in 2007, this litter creature isn’t loosing any steam. As this blog wasn’t around when this little guy was invented, I wanted to write an article about it and show the world. In reality, it’s gaining more popularity as time goes by. This little cutie came on my radar a few weeks ago and I thought it was important to write about him.

What is Keepon?
The first reaction I had when I first saw this cute creature was how adorable it was; I am a girl after all. But you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Keepon, created by scientist Hideki Kozima and programmer Marek Michalowsky, is an artificially intelligent robot used to study social development in children, particularly those with disorders such as autism. It has two cameras for eyes and a microphone in its nose. The cameras and microphones can also be programmed to record the children’s reactions during therapy sessions through the use of facial recognition software.


Communicating Through Music
Since I have a passion for music, I find the most fascinating feature of the robot is its response to music. Keepon makes use of the microphone to dance rhythmically to music. Michalowsky is using Keepon for his thesis studying how robots communicate. He asks the question, “would robots be able to communicate with people more efficiently if they used rhythmic synchrony?”


Robot vs. Human
Even though Keepon does not look like the more humanoid robots we’re used to and takes the more minimalist approach, the question one wonders is would this style of robotics be more effective for specific purposes than if the robot looked more humanoid? It’s funny that people would feel a greater connection and relate more to a robot that doesn’t look like a human at all rather then one such as the Actroid-F.

It really makes me think about the Uncanny Valley. I think its fascinating how people spend millions and millions of dollars trying to make robots look as realistic as possible, will we ever get to the other side of the valley and be able to feel attracted to robots as we are to humans? I’m not sure of the answer to this age old question.

GNU Free Documentation License. Karl MacDorman, Wikipedia Commons.

So Where Do I Get One?
So now you want a Keepon for your very own? According to Wikipedia, you can buy a Keepon for $30,000 but I cannot find out where you can buy one. I’ve searched high and low because believe me, if I had $30,000 to spend I’d be lining up to buy and using this robot for my own evil plans.

References:

Title video: Directed by Jeff Nichols, produced by WIRED magazine Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b...
song: Spoon - Don`t you Evah. http://www.spoontheband.com/

You can find Keepon here at http://beatbots.net/

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