Westport Library Welcomes Humanoid Robots

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Once you’re done reading this, the only thing you’ll be capable of saying is “Wow!” Robotics has really become the face of the future.  As we all know with the technology being so advanced, libraries are becoming a thing of the past.  When reference books and computers weren’t accessible, the library was the place people could go to gain access.  Now, the Westport Library in Connecticut has acquired two robots to establish the same concept.

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The newest additions to the Westport Library are Vincent and Nancy, two humanoid robots that will amaze children with their lifelike qualities and teach coding, computer programming and robotics. Until now, the robot was used primarily in computer and science classes, but with the help private grants, the Westport Library becomes the first library in North America to offer the technology.

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The robots were manufactured by the French robotics firm Aldebaran, who will routinely provide training to staff members. Alex Giannini, the library’s digital experience manager says he’s having a lot of fun exploring the possibilities of what they can do.  Maxine Bleiweis, the executive director of the Westport Library feels these robots will be great tools for students.  She also adds that they are not replacements for humans, they are completely teaching tools.

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These humanoid bots can walk, dance, talk in 19 different languages, and pick themselves up after a stumble. Giannini had Vincent kicking a small soccer ball, doing tai chi and taking bows.  Bleiweis says “Robotics is the next disruptive technology coming into our lives and we felt it was important to make it accessible to people so they could learn about it”.  The Aldebaran robots are complex, equipped with two cameras, four microphones, motion sensors, and sonar to detect walls.  They can recognize faces and detect where sound is coming from.  They can even “touch” and “feel” with the help of tactile and pressure sensors.  Sounds just like your everyday toddler.  Giannini says “they’re insanely complicated”.  He would like to see the robots being programmed for practical stuff in the future like helping patrons locate books or greeting elementary school groups that visit the library.

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Even though the public can get a glimpse of the two bots now, they will officially be unveiled to the public during the library’s Star Wars Reads Day on October 11. The library is also planning on including the robots in a poetry competition in its annual Maker Fair next April.  The robots have cost US$ 8,000 each.





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