As a way to help children dealing with cognitive and motor-skill disabilities, researchers from Georgia Tech have developed a rehabilitation tool that pairs a robot and an Android tablet. To demonstrate this system in action, the research team used Angry Birds to let kids teach the humanoid how to play Rovio's popular game. Essentially, the robot is smart enough to learn by simply watching each move the child makes while flinging those birds toward the iconic green pigs. "The robot is able to learn by watching because it knows how interaction with a tablet app is supposed to work," writes project leader Ayanna Howard, a professor at Georgia Tech. "It recognizes that a person touched here and ended there, then deciphers the information that is important and relevant to its progress."
Still, as great as seeing a robot play Angry Birds may be, Georgia Tech researchers are looking at the big picture. Since the robot is designed to be capable of learning other tasks, it could be very useful during a child's rehabilitation process. As Howard puts it, "Imagine that a child's rehab requires a hundred arm movements to improve precise hand-coordination movements ... if a robotic friend needs help with the game, the child is more likely to take the time to teach it, even if it requires repeating the same instructions over and over again." In other words, it is likelier for a child to want to interact with the robot to complete an exercise, rather than taking on the task alone. Perhaps more importantly, it helps them rehab, learn and have fun while doing so.