David V. Lu!!
Photo Credit: Dan Lazewatsky

GCER Workshop on Expressive Robotics

On July 8th, I got the opportunity to teach a workshop at the Global Conference on Educational Robotics (GCER). The workshop, which I co-taught with Ross Mead of USC, was entitled Expressive Robotics: Motion and Emotion. The workshop was made up of 16 middle school and high school students and two of their advisors. Having worked on the BotBall competition for months, the students were already quite familiar with what robots could do. We wanted to introduce them to how they could interact with people. We focused on being able to express emotions just through the robots’ physical actions. We started with a short exercise where they had to program the robot to move using a floor pattern that expressed one of Ekman’s six basic emotions. Then we had them dive into the bigger challenge of creating (from scratch) a short scene using their robot. We had them create storyboards and then make a first draft. We then offered a few tips for how to refine the motion, using the 12 Disney Principles of Animation, and then had them do a final draft, which we filmed at the end of the workshop.

Overall, Ross and I were quite impressed with the level of aptitude the students showed. The scenes they made showed tremendous range of emotion and were quite entertaining. It was also fascinating to see how quickly they adapted many of the principles of HRI, since the field as a whole is generally not taught anywhere below a graduate level.

Their final films can been seen on Youtube.

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