Our department holds an expo for the community each year and this is the first time I’ve participated. It is kind of like the open house last semester, but this time all my labmates attended (while last time there was only me facing all the students). The event attracts many hundreds of visitors, most of them are children and parents.

I was showing a demo on natural language controled robot (something like this). I had only partially finished the code last night and was still tweaking parameters this morning. The demo was crushing over and over again at first. But as the event went on, I learned to say some lines to avoid embarrassment when things didn’t work well.

One thing worth noting is that the way you show a demo should condition on the audience. Only a few people are interested in technical details. Most of them are interested in what can those robots help in everyday life. Children are interested in playing with robots.

To better show the instruction I was tapping, I also wrote a script to capture screenshot and post it to the head screen on Baxter. See it here.

Another thing I found interesting was that human was actively adapting to the robot during interaction. Some children were continuously tapping instructions. They are trying some crazying things like “hands up”, which was not implemented. They learned that the robot can only pick, place and drop. So they stick to those commands and start trying instructions like “picking the bottle that says ‘Google’”, during which they tried to figure out the capability of the system and was able to use it more and more smoothly. I believe this phenomenon has been formed as a research topic in Human Robot Interaction community.