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Monday, October 22, 2018

Hubots: Real-World Robots Inspired by Humans. Written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Alex Ries. Kids Can Press. 2018. $18.99 ages 10 and up

""Pepper's name reflects its peppy, likable personality. It's also easy to say in many languages. That's important because Pepper is expected to operate in countries all over the world.  In Japan, Pepper is already being used as a retail clerk in some stores. And it may soon be employed there as a sympathetic caregiver or companion to people who need extra help with day-to-day tasks at home."

Pepper is a 'hubot', already produced and being used; other robots modeled on the human body are described in this follow-up book to Zoobots (2014).
I am thankful that 'roboticists', and capable, inquisitive researchers such as Helaine Becker can tell these stories that are so fascinating, and so beyond my reasoning. I can hardly fathom it while I am reading all about them.

"Imagine a future in which human-like machines live among us. These robotic "people" would walk,  talk, and think. They might sit beside you in the classroom, serve you lunch in the cafeteria or drive the school bus that takes you home each day.  Amazing - and true."

Ms. Becker describes 10 robots in development. or that are already working prototypes. Each two-page spread begins with a catch-our-attention title: KA-POW! FEEL! CHARM! SING! The hubot
is then categorized according to name, team, domain, and realm. Then, in short informative notes, readers are made aware of its mission, superpower, special ops, specifications, applications, and status update. The format is clear and accessible. Kids who have a passion for learning about robots and their future uses have much to digest. Each one is modeled on the human body, and most are being built to help in the event of emergency or to work in industry.

A section at the center of the book describes the 'uncanny valley' - the low point of a graph that tracks human response to the way robots look as they change over time. Following the description of each of the 'bots', the author presents notes that offer a closer look at the  hands, feet, vision being developed. She reminds her readers that these hubots are the current crop; the future holds promise that they will become even more lifelike and find their own place in our world. A glossary and an index follow.

Alex Ries does a great job, using Photoshop, of providing a realistic view of  the way these hubots might eventually look.

It is a book that begs the question: how do you feel about robots taking over some of the jobs humans now do?

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