Let's Make Robots!

Robot Musings: Robot Tricks

Many of the robot references I have read, recommend that you decide what functions your robot will perform as you start the design process.  This makes sense, as the robot's functions will determine what sensors, actuators and other parts, you must build into it, so it can complete its mission.

Many robots fall short of public expectations.  I think this is because many of the desired functions are too complex.  Anything that requires object recognition and manipulation is a very difficult task at this stage of robot evolution.

My own focus is on robots as pets/companions.  Within this scope there are many things a robot can do and do well.

When it comes to thinking of what functions I want my robot to do, I find it easiest if I think of these as "tricks",  much like you might teach a pet.  By defining the functions as tricks it reduces them to clear and relatively simple tasks.

I currently want my first robot, Ajax, to perform the following list of tricks:

     STOP - The single most important robot trick.  Stop.  Do nothing.

     WANDER - Move around not bumping into anything.  A very common robot trick here on LMR.

     GUARD - Stand in once place and alert (wave arms in air make noise) if anything approaches.

     DANCE - Do the robot dance.

     DRIVE - Drive around where I direct, (IR remote control) without driving into obstacles.

These are the tricks I hope to get from my SHR robot, but the list of course is nearly endless.  Some other tricks that come to mind, assuming a robot has the right equipment are:

     CLOCK - Announce the time on the hour and half-hour.

     ALARM - Act as an alarm clock at the specified time.

     ANSWER - Answer the phone, (like a wireless speaker phone)

     CALL - Place a call, (like a wireless speaker phone)

     LIGHT - Turn on a built-in light either on command or if the room goes dark.

     SING - Play music or songs.

     FOLLOW - Follow someone around keeping a short distance.


Thinking of robot functions as tricks helps to define the desired robot function in a clear fashion for me.

Another use for this is that the number of tricks a robot can perform, could be used as one factor in calculating a robot's level of complexity.

I wonder if a standardized list of robot tricks might be useful?








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Indeed, a robot pet must be adorable.

I am just studying eye movements, using animated GIFs, exported from the 3-D-drawing :)


I really have enjoyed reading the discussion on this. 

There are some important aspects of the "pet" concept  I have overlooked.  Oddbot's comments on "interactivity" is a big one.  I remember seeing his son play with the robot puppy and of course thought it was ADORABLE, but overlooked how interaction was playing a huge role in this.

MarkusB's robo-bunny is too cute and this has gotten me to thinking about the importance of "adorable factor" in a good robot pet.  I seem to remember someone using robot seals in a nursing home environment in Japan with great success because they were warm and cuddly and responsed to the patients.  I actually would like to make big and scary robots, but that is only because I am childish and simple-minded.  If you wanted something you could sell, adorable is the way to go.

Ralph's comment about making the "pet" initiate some of the actions is great too.  After all this could be driven off some random number generator.

I noticed your dog in one of your robot videos Max.  We have five cats.  The reality of cats is that they are fur-covered psychopathic serial killers.  But, since they are cute, warm, covered with fur and can purr, they get away with murder, often literally...LOL.


Funny Maxhirez and sounds quite a bit like living with my own lovable mutt.  It reminds me also that my flesh and blood pet has a mind of his own and very seldom does what I tell him, unless of course it suits him at the moment.  Free will makes him interesting, and I assume is also part of the formula which makes him a good companion.  Another thing that makes him interesting is that he initiates some of our interactions.  Sometimes it’s for food, sometimes to go outside for our walk, and sometimes just for the sake of it.  It might be a fun exercise to consider how some basic behaviors might be layered into a subsumption-like architecture.   A robot pet might have some basic autonomous explore and avoid functions, on top of that could be a drive for periodic social interaction, and at the very top could be some willingness to take commands.

You have a brilliant point, Ralph.  The "Free Will" aspect of a pet is important to the experience, especially the initiation of activity part.  The whole wake-you-up-at-4-am thing is actually quite endearing, whether for want of affection or need to urinate-if a robot could be programmed to (seem to) "want" something, it would approach intelligence in a very Turing-satisfactory type of way.  This is something that Asimov never really breached with Robbie or Ro-butt, but that none the less may be acheivable without too complex of a system and which (if I might speculate) is probably important to developing true AI.  (Aside-my personal test for true independent machine intelligence will be when the agent exhibits the ability to decieve users or other machines without being programmed specifically to do so.)  Incidentally, if you haven't seen the video of Russel's (Oddbot's) son playing with the Robot Puppy, take the time to view it.  The child is as ebullient with the machine as I've ever seen a kid with a real puppy.  Also, you'll want to buy the kit.  As he states, it's just reacting to the child's motions, but it is affective none the less.

Here are a few "Tricks" I'd recommend:


-Tracking seeds, mud and its own waste around the house

-Slobbering (heavily.)

-Randomly alerting at possibly imagined or very minor to inert threats

-Waking you at 4:00am to scratch an itch behind one of its sensors

-Stopping its charging cycle for no apparent reason such that it becomes necessary to take it to a very expensive expert in robot illnesses.

-Jumping out of the window of a vehicle in traffic when stopped at a light

-Chasing off after neighborhood children in a playful way that is not distinguishable from menacing behaviour

-Smelling like an old wool hat

(Just wanted a few laughs.  I love my dogs!)

And for the cat owners out there, perhaps it should also retrieve dead mice or birds and deposit them at your feet.

...and see if his Visible Kitteh project can tell the difference!

If I do make a big robot dog then it definitely will run around the house with muddy feet and slobber.

If possible it should use it's slobber powers for good and not evil (such as mopping the mud off the floor :-)

I beg of you to start a Kickstarter campaign to mass produce them.  I want to invest!

well, i created Project Phoenix as my own robot pet, perhaps, a robot pet might be a great idea for you!