Robot Learns To Play Angry Birds By Watching Kids First
July 11, 2014

Robot Learns To Play Angry Birds By Watching Kids First

[ Watch the Video: Kids Teach Robot How To Play Angry Birds ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Robots programmed to execute a certain amount of tasks only have a limited usefulness; however a robot that is able to learn can expand its usefulness and better adapt to its surroundings. In pursuit of a more flexible robot, engineers at Georgia Tech have developed a small humanoid robot that can learn how to play Angry Birds.

“One way to get robots more quickly into society is to design them to be flexible for end users,” said Hae Won Park, a Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellow working on the project. “If a robot is only trained to perform a specific set of tasks and not able to learn and adapt to its owner or surroundings, its usefulness can become extremely limited.”

The team said their robot could serve a more practical function besides learning to play a video game – helping with repetitive rehab sessions for children with cognitive and motor-skill challenges.

“Imagine that a child’s rehab requires a hundred arm movements to improve precise hand-coordination movements,” said project leader Ayanna Howard, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the school. “He or she must touch and swipe the tablet repeatedly, something that can be boring and monotonous after a while. But if a robotic friend needs help with the game, the child is more likely to take the time to teach it, even if it requires repeating the same instructions over and over again. The person’s desire to help their ‘friend’ can turn a five-minute, bland exercise into a 30-minute session they enjoy.”

During the Angry Birds sessions, the robot watches where the child places his or her finger on the touchscreen and how he or she moves a finger to flick the bird across the screen. As the robot is watching, it is regularly taking snapshots of the action and processing this visual information.

The robot is also simultaneously tracking the score on the screen and the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ results of each bird. If the bird successfully took out its objective, the robot whirrs in delight and does a celebratory pose. If the bird didn’t achieve its target, the robot responds by shaking its head and making dejected sounds. The robot also analyzes each level and gives the appropriate social responses while changing strategy.

In a study recently presented at an annual meeting of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) in Denver, the Georgia Tech team showed how recruited grade-school kids play Angry Birds with an adult viewing close by. Later on, the kids were required to train a robot how to have fun playing the game.

While the kids spent about nine minutes with the video game as the adult observed them, they played for an average of 26.5 minutes with the robot. They also interacted significantly more with the robot than the adult. Just seven percent of their session with the adult included talking and non-verbal interactions – compared to almost 40 percent with the robot.

The Georgia Tech team said they plan to expand their work into other games and begin working with children who have an autism spectrum disorder.


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