Kids Teach Robots To Play Angry Birds

Kate Patrick Contributor
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Georgia Tech wants to help rehabilitate disabled children by having them teach robots how to play Angry Birds. Specially designed robots watch children play the game, and take “snapshots” of what they see, then use the “snapshots” to learn and build an understanding of how to play the game.

In a press release, Georgia Tech professor Ayanna Howard explained the robot to be learning robot.

“The robot is able to learn by watching because it knows how interaction with a tablet app is supposed to work,” Howard said. “It recognizes that a person touched here and ended there, then deciphers the information that is important and relevant to its progress.”

According to Georgia Tech, robots can be used to help children who are recovering from illness or injuries and can’t use fine motor skills. Pre-programmed robots assisting with a child’s daily tasks and needs can be a huge asset for parents, especially since robots are tireless. Rehabilitating muscle movement can be as simple as teaching a robot how to play Angry Birds, Howard said.

“Imagine that a child’s rehab requires a hundred arm movements to improve precise hand-coordination movements,” Howard said. “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.”

TechCrunch uses the example of a child going through therapy to elaborate on what this means for doctors and parents.

“Although it looks like the robot is playing along with the child, the robot can also give cues and make requests,” TechCrunch reported. “The therapist, then, could tell the robot to ask the child to play various games and watch the improvements. Then the robot can go home with the child to maintain the training outside of the office.”

Going forward, the university plans to teach the robots to play more games on a tablet and recruit children suffering from autism or motor impairments as their teachers.


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Kate Patrick