15.05.13

Robot could be teaching aid of future

AUTHOR: Inavate

A university student has created what is thought to be the world’s first telepresence robot that can recognise when a human is addressing it and turn its ‘face’ towards the speaker. Moving on wheels and projecting live video of a person onto the face of the robot, the droid can help a teacher deliver seminars, show slides, discuss things with students, and answer questions as if he or she was right beside them. MAKIIS could potentially allow a lecturer in one country to give a tutorial and inter

Moving on wheels and projecting live video of a person onto the face of the robot, the droid can help a teacher deliver seminars, show slides, discuss things with students, and answer questions as if he or she was right beside them. MAKIIS could potentially allow a lecturer in one country to give a tutorial and interact with students across the world.

MAKIIS, which is Greek for human, was created by a 20-year-old Panagiotis Gnafakis who is a student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Gnafakis, who spent six months and 400 hours building the robot, said: “My robot has been designed to mimic human behaviour as much as is possible.
“The robot has two features which have never before been integrated on a telepresence robot.
“Some telepresence robots are little more than SKYPE on wheels, but MAKIIS hears where the sounds comes from and turns to face them.”

MAKIIS is equipped with a 3D camera – adapted from the Kinect Sensor of a Microsoft Xbox – allowing it to judge the distance of obstacles and prevent it from colliding with them. It uses an iPad to broadcast video of a subject and it cost around £4,000 to build.

“A lot of experts believe telepresence robots could have a hugely significant role in the way businesses operate in the future,” said Phil Tranter from UCLan.
“As MAKIIS can imitate human behaviour we think this pioneering telepresence robot could be a perfect fit for education. In my view a robot cannot replace the benefits of real human interaction but it could certainly be a valuable tool for the modern day teacher who is lecturing and providing feedback to students all over the world.”

Mr Gnafakis, a final year Robotics and Mechatronics student at UCLan, said: “The commercial and personal uses for a telepresence robot like this are almost endless. They could be used for businesses to communicate across the world, as well as for teachers, doctors and lecturers. They could also help families stay in touch, and be particularly useful to help severely disabled people to become more socially included.”