A new social robot, that is simple, expressive, inexpensive and referred to as ‘Blossom’, can soon help teach fourth graders mathematics. Blossom can be customized with handcrafted material, like wood and wool, to bring uniqueness to each owner. It was developed by Guy Hoffman, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, who envisioned to build robots with warmer, homier qualities.
Blossom robots can be constructed by users from handcrafted materials, making each one a little bit different. Credit: Michael Sugitan/Cornell.edu
"We wanted to empower people to build their own robot, but without sacrificing how expressive it is," said Hoffman, senior author of "Blossom: A Handcrafted Open-Source Robot," published in the Association for Computing Machinery Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction. "Also, it's nice to have every robot be a little bit different. If you knit your robot, every family would have their own robot that would be unique to them."
The mechanical design of Blossom mechanical was designed by a doctoral student in the Hoffman lab and first author of the study, Michael Suguitan. The design is centered on a floating "head" platform using strings and cables for movement allowing it to be more flexible and organic than those robots made of rigid parts.
Blossom is built with such simplicity that other researchers from other disciplines can build one from the kit used in the studies—which can also be utilized as a learning tool to demonstrate robotics to children.
"It's meant to be a flexible kit that is also very low cost. Especially if we can make it out of cardboard, you could make it very inexpensively," says Hoffman. "Because of computation becoming so powerful, it could be a really open-ended way for people to do whatever they want with robotics."
The work was partly supported by a grant from Google Creative Robotics.