Children's Books Come to Life at Bots & Books Competition

The Bots and Books Design Challenge, at The School of Information Sciences (the iSchool) at the University of Pittsburgh, saw eight teams of undergraduate and Masters students design, program and build a robot to illustrate a theme from a children’s book. Their ‘bots were judged by Brian Beaton, Bob Perkoski, Martin Weiss and Corey Wittig. Many memorable presentations took place, including a Valentine’s Day dancing Cinderella and a reenactment of Disney’s The Lion King. The judges had a difficult decision to make, but in the end they selected three winning teams: Team Pizza(Ty Houy, Mandy Kendall and Tom Robinson), first prize for BunniculaThe Carnegie Crew (Michael Balkenhol, Georgiana Deming and Bonny Yeager), second prize for The Invention of Hugo Cabret; and The Notorious Cardigans (Angela Bradshaw, Emily Mross and Jourdan Walls), third prize for Jumanji

Here is the winning bot in action:

 The final parts list for the Bunnicula Bot was 3 servos, 1 motor, 2 single color LED’s for the vegetable and 2 tricolor LED’s for Bunnicula’s eyes.  

AttentionBot: A Robot Keeping Human Attention

AttentionBot’s purpose is to conduct researches in how to keep human attention. We are interested in communication inconsistency meaning that a person’s behaviors and speeches are inconsistent. In design field, people call the inconsistency “anti-affordance” meaning that the form and the function are unrelated. This leads to our research question: can anti-affordance robot designs attract and keep more human attention? We design two appearances (kind-looking Santa and evil-looking witch) and two characters (mean and nice). The kind-looking Santa with mean character and the evil-looking witch with nice character are anti-affordance robots. The other two are affordance robots. The robot asks the participant to mimic the sound that it says. The nice robot is encouraging and friendly while the mean robot is a terrible tease. Although the results of the experiment did not show significant differences in anti-affordance and affordance robots, we found that people got confused in identifying the character while interacting with anti-affordance robots. We conclude that for short term interaction, the influence level of appearance is larger than the one of character.

This is a project in “16867-Principles of Human-Robot Interaction” class in Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, U.S.A. Thanks to the supports of the project advisor, Prof. Illah R. Nourbakhsh. And also thanks to CREATE Lab's Hummingbird platform so that our group can easily develop the control system of the robot. Please visit for more information.

- Yen-Chia Hsu, Zheng Yang, and Valerie A Gonzalez

The Power Seeker

As part of Professor Illah Nourbakhsh's Principles of Human Robot Interaction course, our team developed a power-seeking robot using the Arts and Bots platform. 

Using the tool was a simple way to rapidly prototype our design which included two servo motors, a light sensor, an IR sensor, four LEDs, and two tricolor LEDs.  To start, we used the CREATE lab's Visual Programmer to set up our components.  Eventually, we took full advantage of the Hummingbeans java library which made text-to-speech straight forward and allowed for easy manipulation of sensor data and servo configuration.

Using the Hummingbird platform was a very positive experience for our team, enabling us to focus on our preliminary research investigation task of seeing whether or not people would perform favors for a robot requesting them based on behavior.

For more information, please visit our team's website at

-Marshall Fox (MRSD 2013), Jiangxia Shi (MRSD 2013), and Enqi Zu (MS-RT 2013)