Wednesday, October 04, 2006


One of the most important aspects of interacting with the environment is shape recognition and object handling. Not surprisingly many of the so-called didactic toys supposedly teach your baby how to distinguish, grab and hold various shapes.
But simple cubes and pyramids are easy. The most difficult shapes are food items. You see it’s easy to recognize, grab and bite a sphere (provided it fits in your mouth!) but food items are more interesting.
I was watching David eat a cookie. This particular cookie is square shaped and as such is easy to recognize and hold. With each successive bite though – it changes shape. It becomes a square with a bite taken out, then it’s a kind of a triangle with a jagged edge, next it becomes almost a trapezoid… The wonderful thing is – it’s still a cookie and David has no problem understanding this. I know it’s common sense to us but that’s because you’ve learned that food items rarely change into non-food items just because you’ve taken a bite (interestingly, David does not recognize a banana without the peel).
An item that changes shape presents a difficult handling problem. You can teach a robot to hold an apple but that won’t help it hold a cherry. David must continually modify his gripping technique and be attuned to dangerous cookie fault lines. One false nip, one careless pinch and the cookie crumbles and escapes to the floor! Still, utilizing the Failure Driven Approach™ David more or less successfully eats a cookie by himself. A breathtaking testament to the triumphant progress our project is making. Go David go!

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