on November 3rd, 2021

Let’s start by saying that research confirms that robot interactions are good for people.

One study Robots as Dogs? – Children’s Interactions with the Robotic Dog AIBO and a Live Australian Shepherd theorizes that because robots, unlike stuffed animals, are animated and interactive, children would likely form bonds with them and find them beneficial for developing certain social interactions.

With younger minds, a new Google Educator PD grant has a novel way of using robots to effectively teach young children, and it is highly effective.

The project acknowledges the importance for students to be able to write computer programs, and as a result, teachers need to be able to correlate the application. Low-cost robotic kits are now being implemented for education, but ultimately it has shown a lot of positive outcomes.

The main learning goal of the project is for students to be able to use programmable educational robotics kits.

These kits often use household objects that get reused by applying robotics. It then applies programming in real contexts to building prototypes and, in doing so, teachers and students get introduced to the world of coding language.

Coding language provides knowledge, skills, and competencies in both disciplinary and cross-disciplinary worlds within education and outside and as a result develops computational thinking and problem-solving.

From child’s play to engineering student

The Turtlebot sounds like a toy based on animated creatures living in a New York sewer, but in reality, it is shown to be engineering students’ best friend in the classroom.

In 2019 a mechanical engineering department in America looked at the improvements one fairly cost-effective robot made to a curriculum. The study, Turtlebot 3 as a Robotics Education Platform, established that teaching robotics to engineering students can have its challenges.

To provide hands-on experiences physical robots are required and this can be a high-cost exercise for universities and other education providers.

Not only that, the maintenance and skills required to operate certain robots required highly skilled staff with specific expertise – until robots like Turtlebot 3 mobile robot was introduced to master courses. It had a lower learning curve, was effective but above all proved to be a valuable robot in terms of education.

The Turtlebot was used during lab sessions for a mobile robotics course and it proved to aid teaching.

Students had three sessions and had to prepare for each before their allocated time. During their preparation for lab sessions, their skills and research were able to present themselves as they interacted with Turtlebot 3.

The sessions were as follows:

  1. Introduction and dead reckoning: Students received an introduction to the robot and its software. Students only had to drive the robot in a straight line or perform very simple tasks with it. Dead-reckoning was then added through simulation and practical exercises that had to be completed. This opened the floor to discuss drift, error ellipses, and the uncertainty of position estimates that come with it.
  2. Kalman filter: During the second session they put on their problem-solving hat as the drift was explored further. Drift is one of the major disadvantages caused by dead-reckoning. The Kalman filter method is then introduced because its derivatives can be implemented to include more sensor data into position estimates to counteract error ellipses. Students had to design a linear Kalman filter and experiment with the effects of a variety of sensor noise on position estimates.
  3. Path planning: During the last session tested path planning algorithms were provided during previous lectures. They had to compare the advantages and disadvantages of different scenarios and then had to design a program that allowed Turtlebot 3 to follow a wall.

A high percentage of students said that the course was highly beneficial to their education, and they also said it was accessible. Previously without robotic labs, these scores were low.

Three robots taking it even further

So, it’s clear that introducing robotics in education has become beneficial and also opens up education in a new way. Whether it’s software or hardware development it does provide specific training.

But educational robots aren’t as advanced as the three robots that have been making waves for their applications, complexity, and also the way they can influence education.

See Spot Run

A K-9-like shell in canary yellow houses one of the most impressive commercially available ROI robots. Called Spot, this robot is a huge advancement in almost everything.

Developed by Boston Dynamics, Spot is seen as a capable agile mobile robot on the market with groundbreaking mobility, payload capacity, reliability, and an easy UX. Spot is designed to give the flexibility to configure a system to maximize direct and indirect ROI.

Source: Wikipedia Commons.

So, what does Spot do?

The robot can access sites remotely in real-time from anywhere in the world, where it can capture unlimited data on-site safety, efficiency and frequency.

In doing so it can keep employees safe and also do a milliard of other tasks in the process. Spot’s ability to be an out-of-the-box solution that can bring the sensors to places they won’t be accessible otherwise.

The robot is also amazingly cost-effective and saves a lot of money. According to Boston Dynamics, one area where Spot was introduced was national grid security in America.

The facility includes a thyristor valve hall and a tall multi-level building the size of a soccer field that is too dangerous for humans to enter.

Spot could withstand the electrical field of the facility and traverse the entire uneven floor, and as a result, reduced downtime of the facility saving up to 1-million USD.

Not just a drone, not just a robot

Touted as the ultimate robot that can fly, use a skateboard, and dance – Leo the robot is way more than meets the eye – or senses.

While most mobile robots we see use either ground movement or aerial movement, Leo does both. Leo is short for Leonardo, or LEgs ONboARD drOne. Built by researchers at Caltech, the robot features multijointed legs and propeller-based thrusters which can be used in conjunction with each other creating a robot that can swiftly go from walking to flying in a perfect move.

What Leo is providing is an in-depth study into hybrid robots and the interface between walking, flying, and using their joints.

Leo in 2021 is a rather small robot weighing just 2.58 kg and standing tall at 75cm. But his small frame houses three impressive subsystems, a torso, a propeller propulsion system, and two legs with point feet.

With this Leo can operate autonomously with its onboard computers and sensor suite, shifting between flying and walking. It also makes Leo very agile, something that could serve humans well.

Image Credit: Caltech

Some of his proposed uses are that of multipoint inspections, performing repairs or maintenance, or using his mobility to replace mechanical parts in areas humans find hard to reach. One suggestion is that Leo performs inspections on high-voltage lines. Leo could walk the lines and inspect and repair them in one go when witted with the right camera technology.

Walking on the ground the robot could fly up to lines when there are problems. Currently, line inspection could need helicopters and an assortment of tools and staff when lines are in hard-to-reach areas or dangerous.

Another unique aspect of Leo would be painting bridges or buildings, where his movability and cross between flying and walking could see him being programmed to perform a job without the dangers it poses to humans. Leo would also be well suited for inspections on roofs.

All together now little robots

Swarm robotics is an ever-adapting field of robotics that seems so at home in the world of science-fiction, yet the real-world application of the technology has shown to have a lot of value.

Swarm robots show self-organization and autonomy that translates to cooperation between each robot as they perform tasks. Robots should be able to communicate from unit to unit, and their operation is buzzing with excitement.

So much so that one paper Past, Present, and Future of Swarm Robotics managed to find 217 references to the robots and their wide range of applications. From fixing a household plug to assisting military missions there’s no denying that these little feats of engineering could do a lot of fascinating things.

But lately, insect-like robots are shown to have value in swarm robotics research.

Inspired by observing quadriflagellates and their swimming gaits. The researchers developed robotics suited for the investigation where they could determine the phase relationships between appendages. The autonomous, algae-inspired robot physical models can self-propel in thick fluids and it is paving the way for the next generation of devices to be used in water – that is to say microscopic robots.

These robots could work to do amazing feats under subterranean environments and due to their autonomy could repair and install small items underwater. Indeed, they can also be the start of robots used in the bloodstream of humans.


Melson, Gail & Jr, Peter & Beck, Alan & Friedman, Batya & Roberts, Trace & Garrett, Erik. (2005). Robots as dogs?: Children’s interactions with the robotic dog AIBO and a live Australian shepherd. Extended Abstracts of CHI 2005. 1649-1652. 10.1145/1056808.1056988.

Gena, Cristina & Mattutino, Claudio & Cellie, Davide & Mosca, Enrico. (2020). Educational robotics for children and their teachers.

Amsters, Robin & Slaets, Peter. (2020). Turtlebot 3 as a Robotics Education Platform. 10.1007/978-3-030-26945-6_16.

Saraf, Prathamesh & Sarkar, Abhishek & Javed, Arshad. (2021). Terrain Adaptive Gait Transitioning for a Quadruped Robot using Model Predictive Control.

K. Kim, P. Spieler, E. S. Lupu, A. Ramezani, and S.-J. Chung, “A Bipedal Walking Robot that Can Fly, Slackline, and Skateboard,” Science Robotics (AAAS), Vol. 6, Issue 59, eabf8136, 2021.

Cheraghi, Ahmad & Shahzad, Sahdia & Graffi, Kalman & Kiji, Sareta. (2021). Past, Present, and Future of Swarm Robotics. 10.1109/MCOM.2002.1024422).

Diaz, Kelimar & Robinson, Tommie & Ozkan Aydin, Yasemin & Aydin, Enes & Goldman, Daniel & Wan, Kirsty. (2021). A minimal robot physical model of quadriflagellate self-propulsion. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. 16. 10.1088/1748-3190/ac1b6e.

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