And yet again, Aleksei Talisainen and Tiina Kasuk, two members of Creativity Matters research group proved the value and the very reason of their existence by successfully passing doctoral attestation. Aleksei is working on overcoming the limitations of telepresence robots, and their hardware and software development, while Tiina focuses on integrating the robots into teaching and learning process.
Tallinn Health College (Tallinna Tervishoiu Kõrgkool) is our long-term partner that integrated telepresence robots into their teaching scenarios and daily routine, therefore the choice of the location of the next PYNT project meeting, hands-on session, and an intriguing social experiment was obvious.
Yesterday one of the students of our Eurotech University course submitted an assignment with the description of a telepresence robot “in the simplest way possible”. Although the explanation is hard to translate from Estonian, it might (with minor modifications) make a great introduction for a scientific article. So, here comes the “Telepresence Robots for Dummies” by Siim Markus Kass:
The practice demonstrated that my initial hypothesis “Telepresence robots are some pitiful clothes hangers” appeared to be wrong. With all their drawbacks these gadgets have something in them and I learned how to find use for it.
I am totally aware that when the teacher reads this text, he won’t be too happy about it and will find many ways to change my mind, there in nothing bad in that, actually.
So, how do you explain what that mystical “telepresence robot” is to someone who’s totally clueless, like a grandma or little kid? Okay, picture this: it’s like a mop stick standin’ in a bucket, get it? Let the bucket have some wheels too. But wait, there’s more! Let there be a screen atop it. Not like a windscreen or smth, but kinda TV screen, you following? And the best part is you can send it places you don’t really feel like goin’ yourself.
Ain’t feelin’ like kickin’ it with your buddies? No bother, just have them pull out the robot from a closet and you can show up to the party without even leaving your crib. How does it work? To be honest, I ain’t totally sure, ask the teacher or somethin’. But from what I can tell, you gotta turn on your computer, click some link, turn the camera and mic on, and then you can use gamer keys or arrows to move the robot around like you’re right there in person. Don’t get pissed off, the robot is kinda clumsy, you’ll get used to it. And just in case you still ain’t gettin’ it, I drew a little sketch for you.
Tallinn University of Technology organized an event called “Open Doors Evening” for PhD students (FB page). The idea behind the event was to aquaint the students with active research groups of the university and the faculty of infotechnology in particular. Our research group represented by Janika Leoste, Aleksei Talisainen, and Kristel Marmor was happy to participate and Ohmni robot bravely interfered with the speech of the dean, Gert Jervan. After all, you can never be sure of who drove the robot to make an accusation of being intrusive.
To spare you the effort of googling, “pair programming is a software development technique in which two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the driver, writes code while the other, the observer or navigator, reviews each line of code as it is typed in. The two programmers switch roles frequently” (Wikipedia).
Pair programming is considered to be an excellent method for beginners, as it helps to develop both coding and collaborative teamwork skills. Recently a new trend, known as “distributed pair programming” has emerged where participants are not physically present in the same location. We investigated whether telepresence robots could be used to facilitate this type of collaboration.
In TalTech university pair programming is widely adopted by one of the members of our research group, associate professon Jaanus Pöial, who designed the experiment and used the robots during his classes of “Algorithms and Data Structures” course.
As a result of this research and based on the data collected by Jaanus, Janika Leoste took the stage at the Real Robots in Education conference. Although telepresence robots offer the convenience of not having to travel to conferences, unfortunately, none were available in Limassol, Cyprus.
To sum up our results, there are both good and bad news. The bad news:
We could name the students of School nr. 21 not only like-minders, but colleagues - in this school students can study in 3 varieties of classes specialising either in Music, English, or Robotics and Entrepreneurship. Although we are yet to put to test elementary students’ entrepreneurship skills, as far as it concerns robotics their profound knowledge impressed us alot.
Children had a opportunity to use and compare all three models of telepresence robots that we have - Temi, Double 3 and Ohmni in a variety of different scenarios and afterwards we asked their opinion whether such devices could find their place in schools. It appeared that although almost have of the respondents would rather prefer a teacher to be physically present in the class, they mostly would not mind their classmates to use robots for telepresence.
We also noticed a very peculiar thing