Meet Heights Libraries’ new resident robot
It's 2023, and some might be wondering, where are all the robots promised by our favorite sci-fi films and novels? While artificial intelligence (AI) exists, it often runs behind the scenes. It is rare to see the social robots we once imagined would be integrated into our everyday lives.
In December, Heights Libraries welcomed its first social robot to the library family. Misty, as she is called, is equipped with a unique set of physical and social skills, designed, according to producer Misty Robotics, for the purpose of “opening access to social robots and taking down today’s barriers.”
“Machine learning and robots are going to continue to be integrated into society,” said Technology Trainer Nia Turner. “As a social robot, Misty is a great ambassador to help people get acquainted with these ideas in a way that doesn’t feel intimidating.”
Misty has digital eyes that blink and transform to reflect a wide range of facial expressions. She is equipped with a camera and microphone, allowing her to recognize and respond to individual faces and sounds. She can also turn her head, move her arms up and down, and roll around on a track-based system.
“Misty is a very cool social robot that can be programmed to do a ton of things!” said Turner. “I'm in the process of learning more about her and coding her using both Blockly and Python before I unveil her to staff and the public.”
Despite Misty’s small stature—she stands only 14 inches tall and 8 inches wide—she contains an impressive array of features. Along with possessing facial and object recognition abilities, she can be programmed to hold conversations in more than 50 languages through a text-to-speech system, and perform speech recognition and natural language understanding in English in real time. This means that she can learn to make meaning of the words she hears, and convert commands into actions.
“The most interesting thing about her is that she has a personality,” said Turner. “Sometimes, when I hear about AI, it feels very abstract. I’m hoping that by seeing Misty in action and being able to code her, AI will seem less like science fiction, and more like a tool you can interact with every day.”
Misty currently lives in the Library’s HKIC STEAM Lab, and represents the department’s initiative to invite library users to engage with innovative technologies, such as Meta Quest VR Headsets, Sphero robots, MakerBot Sketch 3D Printers, and more.
“Misty presents a powerful opportunity to teach the community about coding, computer science, and AI,” said Turner. “We would also love to have her come along to programs, community events, and school visits to promote literacy in the near future.”
Customers can schedule an appointment to meet Misty and engage with the STEAM Lab’s other resources by calling the HKIC (216-932-3600, ext. 1221), or visiting https://heightslibrary.org/reserve-steam-lab-technology/.
Isabelle Rew is the community engagement associate for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.