In order to get to know Curly better, you’ll need to know a couples of things about him. He was originally built to be a state-of-the-art Household Companion robot. He was programmed to help the elderly around the house by doing all sorts of household chores. This unit was special because his hands had so much dexterity that he could use them to communicate with American Sign Language. It’s interesting to note that Curly will sometimes “talk” to himself using sign language.
Sadly, when Curly became outdated and his batteries would no longer charge, his owner listed him on Craigslist. Fortunately, Maria’s mom saw him and bought him as a project for Maria to work on while she recovered from her surgery.
In order to figure out what was wrong with Curly, Maria ran a diagnostics program. She found out that his voice software was pretty much toast and his Artificial Intelligence capabilities were limited. Because it took so long for spare parts to get delivered to her, Maria had to make use of what she could find in the storage units of the Magellan Telescope and its support buildings. In the housing complex, she found an old version of a Siri. She was able to disassemble it and connect the circuitry and speakers with Curly’s AI memory board. It worked pretty well except, no matter how much she tried, she could not get the software to communicate with each other without some glitches. For instance, Curly could not pronounce the letter “s” so the software either came up with another word that didn’t contain an “s” or it just said the word and skipped the “s”. Also, the AI unit had some learning issues. Specifically, it sometimes took conversations a little bit too literally. Here’s a good example:
Maria liked to keep a journal of all her drawings, ideas and projects. It’s about the size of an eight by eleven notebook and bound in leather. The paper comes all the way from India and is made from processed elephant poop.
One day while she was writing in it, Curly came over to watch. She mentioned to him that she was proud to be able to use paper made from recycled poop. At first, he said nothing and just looked at her. It was almost as if you could see the AI program working furiously to comprehend the problems that someone might encounter trying to write on poop. So naturally, he tried to gather more information.
Curly asked, “How you write on poop?”
Maria tried hard not to laugh as she didn’t want him to feel like she was making fun of him. She said, “It’s dried out and sanitized.”
“Oh.” He paused a second then added, “But poop come in a pile, long round piece or like dried grape.”
Snickering, Maria replied, “It’s flattened out first then dried out and sanitized so it’s perfectly good to use.”
Curly continued to ponder the thought of writing on a flattened piece of poop and eventually said, “You write on your poop?”
“No, not people poop, silly. It’s elephant poop.”
“Oh…Elephant are big and eat a lot, so they make a lot of poop. That mean you will have plenty of paper if you own one of them!”
Curly seemed to be getting it.
He continued, “Paper made from a tree. You have to kill tree to get paper, but you don’t have to kill an elephant.”
“Yes Curly, that’s very good. We don’t have to cut a tree down to make this paper and it doesn’t hurt the elephant.”
“Good idea but probably not smell good” was his reply. Obviously, he understood most of the concept, but not everything.
However, one day while they were out and about, Curly said something that showed how much he had been thinking about it and how much his AI had learned. They were walking on a mountain trail when they came upon a llama, standing amongst some grass, pooping. Curly stopped to look at the llama then turned to Maria and said, “Look, it make you new book to write in.” She had never laughed so hard and for so long.
Science Technology Engineering Art Math concepts:
Household Companion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmaJPV1okPo
American Sign Language https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language
Poop paper https://www.poopoopaper.com/
Artificial Intelligence https://kids.britannica.com/kids/article/artificial-intelligence/390648
Here is another site that looks at Microsoft’s Project Tokyo. The project uses artificial intelligence to help blind and partially blind people recognize people around them. https://news.microsoft.com/innovation-stories/project-tokyo/