Skip to main content

    Adorable library robots will teach patrons to code

    Adorable library robots will teach patrons to code

    Share this story

    If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

    Everyone wants kids to learn to code, but the message seems somehow more meaningful coming from adorable knee-high robots. Next week, Westport Library in Connecticut will introduce Vincent and Nancy, a pair of autonomous robots that can walk, dance, kick small balls, carry on conversations in 19 languages, and recognize faces. More importantly for Westport, they can be programmed with new "skills" using languages like Python and Java. The $8,000 machines (purchased with money from private donations) are made by a French robotics company called Aldebaran and better known as Nao robots. They come with an array of microphones, cameras, and touch sensors, and they run on a software platform that's supposed to be easy to learn; there's also an online catalog of preprogrammed behaviors.

    After launching the robots on October 11th, the library will hold workshops teaching visitors to use the Nao software, including an introduction to Python. "What we're counting on is that there is great capacity for growth that will give patrons a chance to play with something resembling artificial intelligence," library assistant director Bill Derry tells The Wall Street Journal. "Our goal is to push it as far as we can and shed light on people who are thinking, experimenting, and producing to inspire them to go even farther." He plans to eventually hold programming competitions, leading up to a maker fair next year.

    The Nao Evolution model purchased by the library came out earlier this year, and it's the fifth generation of the small robot. Previous models have been programmed to do things like pet cats, recognize facial expressions, and dance. They're already used for teaching, whether because of their programmability or because they can recite information and respond to students in a way a computer can't. Researchers are also testing them as a way to improve the communication skills of children with autism. At Westport, though, they could one day perform more prosaic tasks. Library coordinator Alex Giannini says he imagines Nancy and Vincent someday greeting patrons and helping them find books. We don't know when or if Westport might be sending tiny robots into the stacks, but it's at least a much more fun application of library tech than getting rid of books.

    Today’s Storystream

    Feed refreshed Two hours ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

    R
    Twitter
    Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
    A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

    The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

    Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


    M
    The Verge
    We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

    At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


    E
    Twitter
    Emma RothSep 26
    There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

    Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

    During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


    Asian America learns how to hit back

    The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

    Esther WangSep 26
    E
    Twitter
    Emma RothSep 26
    Missing classic Mario?

    One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

    Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


    R
    External Link
    Russell BrandomSep 26
    The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

    The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


    R
    Youtube
    Richard LawlerSep 26
    Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

    Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

    Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


    R
    External Link
    Russell BrandomSep 26
    Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

    The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


    E
    External Link
    Emma RothSep 26
    Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

    Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

    The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


    A
    External Link
    Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

    Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


    J
    James VincentSep 26
    Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

    And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


    Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
    Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
    J
    The Verge
    James VincentSep 26
    Deepfakes were made for Disney.

    You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

    Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


    E
    External Link
    Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

    “An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


    R
    The Verge
    Richard LawlerSep 26
    Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

    City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

    They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.