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(VIDEO): Student-Programmed Robot Leads ‘We Are!’ Chant

by: Jamie Rosenberg

From studying with students to leading a “We Are!” chant, it seems that there isn’t much this robot can’t do.

Nao, a robot brought to life by Penn State Information Sciences and Technology, showcased its skills on Nov. 21 at a tailgating event with President Eric Barron.

Penn State students Kaley Chicoine and Lawrence John Flood, graduate teaching assistant Tyler Frederick, and undergraduate learning assistant Jeffrey Lii teamed up to create the humanoid social robot as part of John Yen’s IST 402: Human Robot Interactions class.

The team received Nao from Aldebaran Robotics, a subsidiary of Softbank and used a visual program interface tool to design interactions with the robot. Of the many programmed actions included were making Nao dance and express feelings with the light around his eyes.

“The students are gaining first-hand experience in a field that has potential implications for a range of applications, from assisting with elder care to working with children,” Barron said. “It’s exciting to see our students and faculty at the forefront of such a cutting-edge field of technology. The work these students are doing is impressive, not to mention fun.”

At the tailgating event Barron got to interact with Nao:

Nao is able to be programmed to interact with humans and respond to questions as well as be pre-programmed to say and do certain things. The students were also able to learn from their experience Nao, learning about technology and its history, artificial intelligence and what it means to be a “social robot.”

“There are multiple ways we try to use this as an anchoring point for various conversations,” Yen said. “One very natural conversation is to talk about the technology in the robot that has enabled the robot to do various things, and how robots have different levels of ‘intelligence.’ Students can learn about the history and a little bit about what the enabling technologies are that make these things happen.

As advanced as Nao is, Yen said there is still a long way to go before these robots can function like those in movie scenes, where their intelligence passes humans’. As more is understood about the human brain and humans themselves, the more intelligence will be able to be enhanced in robots, Yen said.

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