Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

What does a singing Elvis head have to do with cheating at Scrabble?

I’ve just perused two light-hearted, comical articles. One ( “Elvis Lives On as a Robotic Head…”) concerns a newly released commodity, namely a robotic bust of Elvis, capable of singing and speaking with his trademark voice. The other ( “I am rubbish at Scrabble - but playing it online has taught me how to be really good at cheating”) deals with the author’s use of a scrabble-solving engine when playing online Scrabble (although he goes on to realize that it’s more enjoyable to play simply using his own insights instead of acting as a slave to a computer program).

These two widely disparate functionalities - creating music from an Elvis replica and generating solutions to Scrabble games - both rely on independently functioning computer programs, in other words, robots. It’s not just surprising that robots can cover such a wide range of uses; it’s also impressive how embedded they are in our culture and society. We may think of “robots” as futuristic mechanical beings that will one day cook up scrambled eggs and serve us breakfast in bed, but really they’re in use now, all around us. They’re especially useful in arenas that are dangerous or difficult for humans, such as exploring areas polluted by toxins or lifting heavy machinery in factories. The point is that they’re becoming an ever more important part of people’s lives, whether people realize it or not. As we see in the Elvis singing head and the Scrabble-helper, robots are beginning to become more visible, more common, and more entwined in the sociological realm of human life.

Images courtesy of:
http://www.pygment.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2006/06/14june_scrabble.jpg
(Scrabble Image)
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/02/technology/circuits/02elvis.html?_r=2&8cir&emc=cir&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
(Elvis Image)

AttachmentSize
Scrab Img 3.JPG5.22 KB
JPEG Copy of Robotic Elvis.JPG7.88 KB

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