This week we have been working furiously on our bid to become part of the bigger bid for the University of Bristol to be part of an Arts and Humanties Research Council Hub for the Digital Humanities and have been thrashing round ideas about improvng the sophistication of our robot avatars with Daden.

We knew that we wanted to develop the sophistication of our robots so that we can develop more open-ended interactions with visitors, making visitors’ presence have an effect on the behaviour of the avatars. We want to be able to programme our ‘bots so that they will be able to deliver a series of gestures or actions in response to other avatars depending on the costumes they are wearing – this will give the appearance that the robots are sentient to other presences (for example, if a working class and upper class avatar meet, the working class one will become deferent and the upper class one assertive).  We also want them to have a memory so that they don’t repeat themselves inanely. Above all, we want to develop a bot that is easy to set up and customise so that the kind of teaching and learning techniques we are developing  more attractive and attainable for teachers and lecturers in other simulations. It would also allow students and teachers using our model to contribute to the environment by adding their own robot character.

In order to achieve all this we need, as a preliminary, to break the problem we have with Alva and Isaac in Open Sim. In SL, we had programmed them to walk on a set route around the atrium, pausing to talk about key objects. In Open Sim, they start moving and simply run off into the distance. If we could get our ‘bots to move randomly around the model, and to react to each other’s status and gender, we could set up some great experiments in circulation patterns in the Palace as well as provide a very rich environment for users. It’s really exciting – but we’ve got to impress the Hub bid team at Bristol let alone the AHRC….



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