If you love the age-old Indian tradition of story-telling with puppets and music, you're going to love this new robot, designed by two IIT Delhi students. Varnith Jain and Anant Sharma have designed a bot that can be controlled using music and voice commands, instead of the usual manual command.
"Our problem statement was to use robots that can be controlled without using hands. In the context of Indian puppetry, something very unique to our culture, there's usually one guy controlling the puppet and two or three others playing the music. But what if there's just one person? With the help of this puppet, what happens is, we play live music and tell a story, and the robot reacts accordingly," says Varnith.
The puppet has a head and a beak and can move around, pick up objects and drop it off. "The innovation is not the object itself, but the way it is controlled," says Varnith, and adds, "For example, when we tell it to walk forward, it can either walk briskly with its head raised or in a slow and gloomy manner. That is determined by the music that is being played."
In order to introduce the puppet to the world, the duo staged a play centred around an animal named Jamoora. Jamoora belonged to the great Indian desert in Rajasthan. One summer, all the oases in the desert dried up, and Jamoora was searching for water everywhere. As the story unfolded, the music in the background was that of a slow Indian classical raga. Jamoora, the puppet instantly moved according to the mood.
"This can be a great story-telling tool. Children can write their own stories and even learn to play an instrument and then use the puppet to make their story more effective," says Varnith.
Talking about the process behind this unique innovation, Varnith says, "We had to do a lot of research on animatronics, which is essentially the art of depicting emotions using a robot. We don't have complex robots that proper facial features like Sofia, so we had to make do with limb movements. We also had to separate audio and music signals, which was quite a task."
(This story originally appeared on www.edexlive.com)