Today is the last day of the summer program. We ran through one last rehearsal for the final show, and fixed a few more problems. Then it was time to set up for the kids to give a short demonstration of their projects to their family members. The room was crowded, and it was difficult to hear the robots deliver their lines. Overall, the kids did a great job running their programs, spotting the robots, and explaining what they did to their audience. They took turns running their programs: each person had 15 minutes to run through a few short skits before giving another person a chance to run their programs.
After these short demonstrations, we put the robots in place for the final performance. We found and fixed almost every problem…the only one left was at the end of the skit, when the robots were supposed to crouch to end the show: Gini decided not to crouch. We had a relatively large audience, and the kids did a great job putting everything together for the final show.
After the final show, the kids received certificates of completion. It was time to power the robots down, and pack up. It was a fabulous two weeks. The visiting robots made their way back to Minneapolis, and the Iowa robots returned to my office, where they are getting ready for their next project: they will be part of a first-year seminar this fall. We will be writing about that experience starting in August!
Today is the day to rehearse the final skit. Yesterday, all of the individual programs were finished. Each block of dialogue was stored in a separate timeline, and the timelines were added to a “robot library”. We then created the individual “conversation programs” for each robot, and brought in the movement timelines. While it seems straightforward, getting seven robots to communicate, pass on messages to trigger the next robot to say its lines, make sure that all speeches and movements are timed properly, etc… can be tricky.
We fixed most of the typos in the messages being sent, and made it through most of the skit. We had to run through it several times, fixing the problems as they came up, and then “taking it from the top.” Fortunately, the robots are pretty patient, and don’t mind running through their lines as often as necessary. The kids were also patient. They were the ones spotting the robots, and then starting the scene over and over again. It was great to have lots of eyes watching the movements of the robots, and giving feedback on things that needed to be changed in the delivery of the lines. The final result will be impressive!
After the rehearsal, the kids finished up their “gratitude conversations” with the robots. I am thankful to the individuals and organizations that supported this first Robot Theater Summer Camp.
On the first day, we learned how to get the robots to speak their lines, and we programmed the robots to deliver a monologue. It took some time to type out what the robot was supposed to say, and the robots could not always pronounce words correctly. Sometimes we had to intentionally misspell words in order for them to be spoken correctly.
After we got the robot to say the text, we learned how to get the robots to move. We start by turning the motors on (to engage the joints). Then we have the robot stand and deliver its lines. After it is finished, we have the robot crouch and turn the motors off. This last step is important. If the motors are engaged for too long, they will get too hot and the robot will have to be shut down to cool off.
At first, we used a random gesture generator so that the robot would move its arms as it spoke. Then we started learning to pose the robot, to create specific gestures that matched what was being said.