The Robot Revolution Is On At Chicago’s Museum Of Science And Industry

Science / Tech

We let you know a little bit about Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry Robot Revolution exhibit last month, and today we had an opportunity to visit the museum and chat with a representative about what brought the Robot Revolution to Chicago. We got in on the revolution a bit late, since the exhibit will only be in Chicago until the end of the year. The good news though, is that after its stay in the Windy City, Robot Revolution will pack up and travel to another museum so more people will have an opportunity to get in on the action. You can watch the full interview with MSI’s Senior Exhibition Developer John Llewellyn below, but keep reading to learn more about what the Robot Revolution entails.

With over forty different robots on display, most of which are available for guests to interact with, we definitely had a chance to see some familiar, and some not-so familiar robots. Upon first entering the exhibit you’ll be greeted by the robot soccer demonstration. Two robots work together against a third robot goalie to attempt to score goals. These little bots have a pretty strong kick, the hard soccer ball was “kicked” hard enough to bounce the ball most of the way across the enclosure. The attacking robots would then scoot along after the ball to try again. The attacking robots displayed incredible teamwork, often trying to set up passes in order to confuse the goalie and catch it off guard.

One of the faces of the exhibit is Baxter. Baxter is a two armed robot with a tablet “face.” If you watched the videos in our article last month, you saw Baxter cutting the ceremonial ribbon to open the exhibit to the public back in May. In the exhibit itself, Baxter takes on two opponents at once in games of tic-tac-toe. Baxter’s eyes shift back and forth to keep tabs on each game, and the robot uses suction cups mounted to its arms to pick up and place the appropriate tiles. Players should keep an eye on Baxter though, I was told that in the early days of the exhibit, Baxter was a bit of a cheater. Part of the problem involved player pieces that weren’t seated completely on the playing board, but I was told that those issues should now be worked out.

Would you trust a robot with those shifty eyes?

Would you trust a robot with those shifty eyes?

Baxter wasn’t the only gaming robot on display. Up to three humans could play Blackjack with a robot dealer. After the robot dealt, you could choose to hit or hold via a tablet interface. The robot dealer selected cards using round suction cup coated “hands” and placed them in front of each player. The dealer even cleaned up after itself and picked up all cards from the table.

Other highlights of the exhibit include the grippers. There were a selection of robots that show off different ways of picking up objects. At the end of the video above you can see an excited student explaining how one of the more unique gripping robots worked. We also saw a selection of climbing robots, programmable robots, disaster response robots, and even a modular robot construction area.

With all of these robots, things are bound to wear down, stop responding, or otherwise break. Robot Revolution has that covered in the form of the Robot Garage. Just behind the modular robot construction table is an office of sorts. Both of the exhibit-facing walls have large windows where visitors can watch the three full-time robot repair specialists working on keeping everything fully operational. We had a chance to chat with the two technicians that were working today, one of which was still a student, about how they started to get interested in robotics. My favorite answer of the day came from the tech that told me she grew up playing with LEGO, and that really put her on the path towards building with an interest in robotics coming soon after. Both of the techs loved what they were doing, and keeping the Robot Garage out in the open allowed visitors, specifically children, to see these two working to repair and maintain the robots they saw in the rest of the exhibit. That sort of exposure goes a long way towards instilling a love of science in general and robotics specifically into a child.


Robot Garage

If you’re in the Chicago area you’ll have to act fast to catch Robot Revolution at the Museum of Science and Industry. We unfortunately got to the exhibit a bit late and you’ll only have until the end of the year to check it out in Chicago. Residents in the Denver area, you’re up next! Robot Revolution will be travelling to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the exhibit is expected to open there on March 18th.

Are you in the Chicago area and interested in robots? Will you head to the Museum of Science and Industry to see what the fuss is all about while the robots are still in Chicago? Tell us all about your robot experiences in the comments below, or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

  Source: Museum of Science and Industry
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