A New Kind of Social Robot Welcomes A More Human Touch
Blossom is a social robot that looks a little different from the rest
More social robots are being created to act as an interactive assistant that helps at home. Most of these robots look very high tech, usually made up metal or plastic that gives them a smooth, flawless look. Blossom is a social robot that looks a little different than the ones we are used to. Guy Hoffman created Blossom in a partnership between his team at Cornell and Google ZOO in order to foster more creativity in robot design. The robot’s exterior is meant to be handmade by the owner, making each one a little different and very personalized.
Blossom is soft inside and out, made to be designed by materials like wool and wood. To emphasize the human element of the robot, Blossom is meant to be interacted with via touch. Due to the softness of its structure, the movements end up being less smooth than what we expect of robots but it definitely has more personality. Hoffman wanted to incorporate traditional crafts because he believes that as technology improves, there needs to also be an appreciation for uniqueness and creativity. This robot is meant to be more personal and a smart social companion that can meaningful interact with us.
The teams are also working on a project that consists of creating Blossom to act as a social companion for kids with varying levels of autism. They are trying to see how smart companions can help people learn more about social cues and empathy. Thus far, they believe that Blossom can act as a social learning platform and companion for children.
For now, Blossom’s role is to act as a media companion. This includes watching YouTube videos with you and actually physically responding to what’s played. Eventually they are hoping that technology will allow Blossom to immediately recognize emotions within a video and respond accordingly. This will be helpful to children with autism who will be able to understand more about human interactions. Robots do not have to be stiff, perfect-looking machines. The human touch is important even in technology.
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Juliana is co-founder and executive director of Ushahidi, a technology nonprofit established in Africa that develops free and open-source software for information collection, interactive mapping and data curation. Ushahidi builds tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories. Through Crowdmap.com, Swiftly.org and accompanying mobile applications, Ushahidi is making crowdsourcing tools more available and useful. Juliana is originally from Kenya and attended the University of Missouri where she received a degree in information technology.
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