William G. Gilroy | November 25, 2014
Prolific bestselling author James Patterson releases a new children’s book today (Nov. 24) and it has a distinct University of Notre Dame feel.
House of Robots, co-written by Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, takes place in South Bend and features illustrations from the University’s annual National Robotics Week event and robotic football tournament. It tells the story of a boy whose college professor mother invents robots, and what happens when one of those robots decides to enroll in school with his flesh-and-blood “brother.”
While robot siblings may be fictional, cutting edge research at Notre Dame is bringing us closer to the day that robots can serve as teammates and helpers in complex human environments. In combination with the University’s robotics outreach programs, this makes Notre Dame an apt setting for a book that aims to get students interested in robotics and STEM.
Laurel Riek, Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, does research with the goal of creating robotics technology that can automatically sense, understand and respond to human behavior. “The purpose behind this is to make new things possible for the humans in the loop: for instance, to save lives by improving patient safety; to give an aging population the independence they need to continue living where and as they please; and to enable people with disabilities,” Riek said.
“Personal robots that work side-by-side with people are forecasted to be the next big technological revolution,” Riek said. “We are slowly seeing them entering our lives: aiding people with disabilities and older adults, performing onerous chores, and soon transporting us from place to place. However, there remains a gap between intelligent systems that work in the lab, and the reality of building systems that work for real people in the real world. We are working to bridge this gap, particularly in the areas of social sensing and behavior synthesis. We are creating robots that can automatically understand what people are doing, and use that understanding to work more effectively with people across all kinds of different settings.”