Humanoid Robot Teaches Coding at Public Library

A public library is using a robot to teach kids and adults coding, among other job duties. Pepper, a new member of the crew at Carroll County Public Library in Maryland, is a "humanoid," a human-like robot, who can strike up a conversation, dance or tell a story. The humans around Pepper control "her" actions using Choregraphe, a drag-and-drop interface.

Pepper robot

The robot includes a lot of sensors and mechanical degrees of freedom delivered through 20 motors. She rolls around and communicates through WiFi. Her battery lasts up to 12 hours. She sports a tablet on her chest, two high-definition cameras in her head, a 3D depth sensor behind her eyes and loudspeakers in her ears. Among her endearing traits, Pepper can locate the source of sound and move toward it; performs face recognition for gender, age and mood; breathes; and modifies the lights in her eyes and ears. She wakes up when somebody touches her head sensor and goes to sleep when a hand is set on her head and held there for three seconds.

Jen Bishop, emerging technologies supervisor at the library, told a local newspaper that the reason for acquiring the four-foot tall robot was to introduce patrons and the community "to what robots are," how they interact in public, what their strengths and limitations are and "how the underlying technology works."

According to the reporting, Pepper has already been programmed to give her name, explain where she's from, tell how much she weighs, what the weather report is and when she celebrates her birthday. She's also been taught to recognize certain people, such as the library staff.

Since her arrival at the beginning of the year, Pepper has traveled to various libraries in the community to allow people to learn how to program her. Choregraphe is a graphical tool that can be mixed with Python code and was developed by SoftBank Robotics (formerly Aldebaran Robotics), the company that produces Pepper.

Pepper was funded by a $25,000 grant from the Maryland State Library and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.