Kids Can Now Teach Robots To Play Angry Birds – For Science!

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In what must be the cutest example of human-robot interaction I’ve seen in recent months, researchers at Georgia Tech are helping kids teach robots how to play Angry Birds and, in the process, help the kids regain muscle movement and control.

The process is fairly simple. Kids play games and a little two-legged robot watches. The robot keeps an eye on the score, recreates what the child did, and then tries to increase the score. When the bird falls short, the robot is upset and learns from its mistakes. When the robot succeeds it does a little dance.

Project leader Ayanna Howard, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, sees this technology as a way to help kids learn turn-taking, muscle control, and other skills while having fun.

“The robot is able to learn by watching because it knows how interaction with a tablet app is supposed to work,” said Howard.

The real value is in the ability for therapists to use the robot to train and help kids cope with disabilities. Although it looks like the robot is playing along with the child, the robot can also give cues and make requests. 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.

While many of us may be tempted to train this thing to play Candy Crush and just sit back and watch as it demolishes high score after high score, it’s far too important a platform for that. However, as an aging gamer, I would definitely like one of these little robots to headshot some griefers in Battlefield for me while I lounged around drinking whiskey. A guy can dream.