Kids Can Now Easily Program a Robot to Recognize a Smile

Many toys on the market promise to offer the next generation of engineers and coders the foundation they’ll require to compete in the rapidly-transforming job market. But in the area of coding-for-kids products, Cozmo the robot, made by Anki, offers an opportunity for young coders to tap into a complex machine capable of advanced tasks like facial recognition.

Since its release in 2016, the tread-traveling bot has become wildly popular, and so it represents a well-established platform. It is a complex machine, with 1.6-million lines of code running between its companion app and the robot itself. The advanced bot can imitate human emotions, recognize people’s faces, and expressions. Its “personality engine” uses AI to enable it to emulate humans by doing things like losing interest in a particular game after playing it several times.

University students and other scholars have been programming Cozmo, via a software development kit. But first, they had to understand the common coding language Python, so as to program. Luckily, that recently changed, when Anki readjusted Cozmo’s brain to accommodate new code-writers through a simple visual programming language which was created at the MIT Media Lab. They now call the new feature Code Lab.

Programming with pictures

With Code Lab, the users can create basic programs by just dragging and dropping blocks, which symbolize advanced concepts. For instance, a kid could build a simple program that starts with a block, which tells Cozmo to wait until it sees somebody smile (portrayed by a happy face). The next block in that sequence might command the robot to drive. When the new coder executes the program, Cozmo will not go till it detects a grin.

The current graphical code runs in a “horizontal grammar” i.e. left to right. But the next release in Code Lab will be running a “vertical grammar” which goes from top to bottom and plans to incorporate more complex actions, including familiar commands like conditional “if-then-else” statements used in professional programming.

Languages like Python are usually text-based, but Anki has based on pictographs, not words. As a result, Anki is making it so easy to program a complex robot to do advanced level, like recognize expressions and faces.

Robots that do children’s bidding

Cozmo has therefore joined the other kid-friendly programmable robots on the market, like LEGO Mindstorms EV3. The aspiring coders can program the system using an LEGO-developed visual language, which also uses graphical blocks as symbols of functions like actions. The company will release another system called LEGO Boost in August-also with its own visual programming language that is geared towards kids aged 5-12.

Children can program robots called Dash and Dot as well, using a Google-made visual programming language Blockly, or another one called ‘Wonder that Wonder Workshop.’ Dash has microphones and distance sensors and can do things like: turn towards an individual who is speaking, and be aware of other robots around it.

Using tech for creativity

It was in 2007 when MIT Media Lab created Scratch, and Anki is capitalizing on an open-source version called Scratch Blocks, which was developed as a partnership between MIT and Google. Kids who utilize Scratch are learning the core computational concepts which are essential for any other type of programming language.

According to Michael Saile Jr, managing attorney of Cordisco & Saile, LLC, “The best way to encourage the next generation of engineers, scientists, politicians, or lawyers is to encourage them when they’re young. Giving kids toys like this that are not only fun, but educational and can give them an advantage in their future careers.”

This tech incorporated toy matters since it provides opportunities for children to design, create, experiment, and explore new things!

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.