A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Tag: hands

Spykee, Robotic Eyes and Ears

Spykee is a fairly new robot by Meccano, which explains why you need to assemble it from a bunch of plastic and metal parts. AvB describes the assembly quite well on his blog


Does Spykee actually ‘do’ anything of its own? 

For me, it is a bit weird to see that somehow Meccano managed to transform the idea of a robot as a toy or a thing that ‘does stuff’ and respond in various ways to you, to a silly RC WIFI-controlled extension of the owner. The camera only relays the video to the owner, the sound is relayed, and even his master’s voice is relayed through the speakers.

It does not seem to have a voice of it’s own. I cannot even imagine facial expressions. And what of gestures? Spykee does have hands, which is an important requisite for gesturing. But they don’t do much yet, it appears. Perhaps this is where their ‘open source’ policy comes in. Maybe they expect me, or you, to program all sort of interesting gestures for Spykee. A little bit like making gestures for Second Life. Hmmm, maybe the gesture databases for Second Life could somehow be ported to Spykee?

There is an interesting comparison here between Spykee and Rovio. Rovio is even worse at gesture, since it does not even have anything that could be interpreted as hands or arms. But it does have more autonomous navigation.

If it has hands it can wave

Sometimes I am such a proud daddy. The other day my little boy Rik, age 2, contributed to science with the following insightful analysis:

Scene: The Kitchen. Dad is clearing off the table. Enter Rik holding his big cuddly Snoopy dog by his hands. Rik: “Daddy?” [holds up Snoopy for inspection] Dad: “Yes?” Rik: “Snoopy has hands. He can say ‘bye’ with ’em.” Dad: “Yes, that is true.” Rik clutches Snoopy’s hand and waves ‘bye!’. Exit Rik, exit Snoopy. 

Look daddy, hands! (source)

I was enthralled. My boy is a genius! This little peek into a toddler’s still firm grasp of the world showed me what may be an essential piece of the puzzle: A wave is a wave because it is made with a waving hand. In other words, if something does not have hands it can not wave. Or rather, we can imagine seeing a wave only if we can imagine seeing hands at the same time. That seems to me to be a fairly useful prediction. Rik produced his first falsifiable hypothesis!

It pulls back an old Garfield cartoon into my memory. It features a snowman that may or may not be seen as waving. Garfield slaps the twig that serves as his arm and walks on. The twig keeps waving back and forth. Jon comes by and waves back automatically to the snowman. Then it dawns on him it is just a snowman. But I can not find the cartoon anymore, so if anyone out there has it I would be very greatful if you could send a link? Anyway, the same point can be illustrated with the following images

Do you perceive this snowman as waving? Perhaps not.

If the snowman gets hands, does that make it more likely that you see the waving?

For those of you who are unimpressed at this time: Not everyone would perhaps predict the same. In his 2004 book Adam Kendon hints at the possibility of creating an animation of a waving amoebe, by controlling the movement features of a amoebe-like shape. I would predict that this will only work if the amoebe gets hands or something that resembles them just enough.

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