Fighting Social Isolation with Robots

June 8, 2020

Social distancing can be particularly tough for elementary-age children; talking with friends on Zoom isn’t the same as playing hide-and-seek or just running around with their peers. A team of roboticists has come up with a way to fix that.  

Students in the labs of computer science professors Brian Scassellati and Marynel Vazquez have developed an app, VectorConnect, that allows kids to use robots to interact with their friends in separate homes. The app, which is free and available through the Apple AppStore and Google Play, works with the commercially available robot known as Vector. For it to work, both children need to have the app, but only one of the homes has to have the robot. Through the app, the user can control the robot in the other person’s home, users can hear each other, and see through the robot’s “eyes” - that is, everything the robot picks up on the camera is visible on the mobile device screen.

With help from a generous donation from Evren Bilimer ’00, a  limited number of robots will be distributed to families in the New Haven area free of charge.

Go here to the Robots for Good website for more information about the project and how families can apply for a robot.

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