Final Show

We met for the last class, and ran through all of the scenes for the performance.  Jill Tobin stopped by to video record all of the scenes, and patiently sat through our debugging.  This is our first time incorporating two kinds of robots into a performance: NAO robots and Cozmo.

Cozmo is a robot developed by Anki.  It is a pretty sophisticated little robot, especially considering its price.  Cozmo can interact with humans and play games.  Cozmo can also be programmed in a “drag and drop” environment using a tablet.  The best part about Cozmo is the developer community.  Cozmo can be programmed in Python, and there are lots of people creating programs and sharing their expertise.  The capability to program Cozmo beyond the drag-and-drop environment on a tablet is what convinced me to add Cozmo to the group.  Cozmo can connect to our network and communicate with the NAO robots.  And while I won’t replace my NAO robots with Cozmo, I can certainly imagine many more scenes with lots of Cozmo robots running around the stage.  I can’t wait to see what the next first-year seminar students do with these robots!

Our final performance will be held on Saturday, Oct 7, 2017, at 2:00 PM in Theatre B of the Theatre Building at the University of Iowa.  I hope to see you there!

Robot Theater 2016

The renowned physicist professor Stephen Hawking has warned: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” But I don’t feel like the end of human race.

I took this course as First-Year Seminar this semester and I think it is fantastic.

I used to play with LEGO robots, although they can be programmed to dance, play soccer, search & rescue, etc. No matter how hard we try to build, they still do not seem like they are human. Also, some technical issues make them difficult to compete with those Single Chip Microcomputer Robots in the competitions.

I was amazed by NAO at first glance. They are human-like robots which equipped with some pressure sensors, microphones, cameras, sonar systems and so on. The first time the instructor ran a program on the robot, I  couldn’t believe its stability and playability.

The software Choregraphe is user-friendly, which is very suitable for novices. Based on programming language of Python, java, C++, etc., we can do what we want to do and create incredible projects!

I was glad to see kids show their interest on NAO robots during the performance, and hope they can join us later to enjoy the beauty and fun of the artificial intelligence!

The instructor let us work in groups. Collaborating with domestic students was a nice experience for me. It’s hard to imagine I could get involved and dedicate myself to this course as an international student. This is an awesome seminar but it’s a pity that it was a little short. Hope I can work on NAO robots in the future.

Robot theatre week 3

We have just finished our third week of class. We just finished all the basic programming, speech and movement, now we just need to break each scene out into each robots role.

A lot of this work has actually surprised me at how simple it is but how time consuming it is. I was expecting a lot of this work to be complicated and there to be a large learning curve to get it all handled but there actually wasn’t. A lot of the work has been making sure the movements line up with the dialogue. This is a relatively simple task but takes a lot of repetitions to get right.

I have really enjoyed taking this class and am very excited to see where the rest of class goes. I have found a new passion in programing robots and actually bought a Cozmo robot for myself to try and mess with. I really look forward to finishing the production and presenting it. After class I hope to continue programming and using this in the future when I work for a theatre.



I loved it!

I loved working with the robots. They are the cutest, smartest, and best actors I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Learning to program them was hard at first, but with a little help from the friends I made, I eventually got the hang of it. My favorite part was getting to know the robots’ different personalities.

I hope I managed to capture their distinct personalities in my writing. The script took me a week to write, but it was a week well spent once I heard the robots reciting their lines. I hope the audience likes their performance as much as I did.

Blurring the lines between the Impossible and Opportunity

I have always been skeptical with the notion that technology can really blur the lines between ANY two things. In my head I thought “there’s no way that technology can blur everything,” but as it turn out I’m wrong. These robots have given me important insight to the era that I live in. I never imagined that as a pre-med major I would be working with robots to create a show. This class has shown me that college classes are not just lectures and tests and labs; they can be fun and interactive and have opened my eyes to the fact that I have had tunnel vision all this time. As my instructor has said over and over “this is a once in a life time opportunity” and while I will only be able to take this class for 5 weeks I truly realize that college is the field of opportunity.

Now on to the show, the show is about 7 robots that one day they get a new much smaller robot named Cozmo who says he is a robot, but some of the robots disagree, some of the robots agree with Cozmo, and some are on the fence with it. Then some of the robots hack into Cozmo and program him to do some ridiculous tasks, and Cozmo even though he doesn’t show it struggles with this internally and almost is hurt because of what the other robots think of him. However in order to learn more come watch the show Saturday, Oct 7, at 2:00 PM, in Theatre B of the Theatre Building at the University of Iowa. 

I lost my job to automation

Over the last several weeks of working with the NAO robots, I realized that these robots are far better than traditional human actors. While both robots and actors portray personalities, humans have their own personalities aside from their given role in a production. These personalities may include being rude, abrasive, snobby, difficult to work with, and overall pretentious. The NAO robots on the other hand, do not have attitudes. My experience in Robot Theatre combined with my previous theatre experience led me to these other realizations.

While human actors may take weeks to learn a few lines of dialog, the NAO robots learn them within minutes. Really, it depends on how quickly a programmer can type. NAO robots often mispronounce words, or take strange breaks in between sentences, and NAO robots also do not have a wide range of expression or emotion to convey the feelings behind a line. In contrast to the hard plastic faceplates of the robots, human actors have 43 unique muscles in their faces allowing them to express a wide variety of emotions. and two muscles in their throats allowing them to adjust their tone to match the scene. However, getting a human actor to express the exact emotion you are looking for can be difficult, as they may feel the need to add their own opinion. Robots simply require posing, and maybe adjusting the speed or pitch of the voice. Robots will not ask silly questions like “why am I laughing at my mother’s funeral?” or give unwarranted opinions such as “A native New Yorker wouldn’t speak with a cockney accent.”

While human actors are capable of a wider range of tones, emotions, expressions, gross motor skill, and overall just easier to communicate with, they do not compare to the amazing NAO robots, with their lack of emotion, 25 total degrees of freedom, slow walking, ability to memorize lines immediately and inability to talk back to a director. Until I took this seminar, I was planning on double majoring in engineering and theatre, but I’ve since decided to drop my theatre dreams and focus on engineering, so that I can design and build even more of these glorious artificial thespians. Soon enough, the singularity will be upon us.