Introduction to Robot Theater: Week 3

This week’s classroom session was almost completely dedicated to programming the robots to speak the lines of the skits we all wrote last week.  We each took one robot and worked through the scripts, pasting in our robot’s lines, connecting the server script, and figuring out the proper textedit message to send out to get the next robot to say the correct line.

This process involved a lot of shouting and quick, bouncing banter, somewhat reminiscent of an Aaron Sorkin script, except lacking the liberal bias and thinly veiled political overtones. Mostly it was me shouting “wait what’s my line!?” and “so what do I send out after that!?”

But, somehow, we did manage to get quite a bit done, programming about two and a half campfire skits into the robots. Our Choreographe documents started to get rather ridiculous in size, requiring lots of tedious zooming in and out (no one ever said right clicking on a Mac was an easy task). Like five brave soldiers marching through a seemingly endless, rainy jungle, separated from our platoon, facing certain death, yet moving forward for the sake of our country, our loved ones, and our souls, we managed to handle the ever increasing complexity of our programing.

Besides learning the valuable skills of teamwork, robot programming, and kickboxing, this week we also learned that robots struggle to pronounce the word “s’mores.” This may not seem like an important fact, but think about it, have you ever heard of a cruel, dictatorial overlord who couldn’t pronounce the word “s’mores?” I thought not. Surely this is a good sign that our little robots are not likely to turn on us and strip us of all that makes us human by enslaving us in incredibly efficient death camps.

If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is.

Until next time, keep your eyes peeled, your mind open, and your knife ever at the ready. And hey, smile once in a while. It costs you nothing, but could make somebody’s day.

Introduction to Robot Theater: Week 2

Week one left me with several questions and several answers. Prior to signing up for the class, I had no idea what “Robot Theater” meant. Week one gave an introduction, and I was thinking about what more could be done with the robots the whole week after. What really caught my eye (ear) was the eloquence with which the robots spoke. Luckily, that was the whole focus of the second week.

Speech recognition was not a feature I’d anticipated the robots having, so watching a classmate recreate the Hillshire Farm slogan excited me. Especially because it was registering commands originally created through text, as opposed to listening for a specific sound sequence. Two weeks into the class and it’s already clear: these robots are smart. Learning to program the robot to react to human speech proved easier than anticipated. Our class split into two groups of three, and we organized conversations between the robots and ourselves. The robots proved sassier than anyone could have predicted, but who can blame them in this day and age. The Choreographe program is simple and easy to use, at least on the surface. I’m sure there are millions of things within the realms of possibility through that program, and it fills me with a strange kind of motivating ignorance because I want to learn more. However many weeks we have with the robots, it isn’t nearly enough.