Arushi Nath

Every year January 17 is celebrated as the Kids Inventors Day. It is the birth anniversary of the renowned polymath, politician and child inventor Benjamin Franklin.

Mars4I was invited by TVO Kids studio on January 29, 2020 in Toronto to talk live on their program about robotics and give a demo of my Make an ARtronaut Smile (MARS) robot.

I created the MARS bot for astronauts going for long term space travel to mars or for an extended time at the International Space Station. When astronauts are away from the family they may feel sad, miss familiar things and remember about home. The MARS bot identifies when astronauts are feeling sad through their facial emotions. It then tries to cheer them up by giving them a High Five. Please see the video at:

How does it work?

I made the MARS bot using OpenCV and Arduino.

MARS bot continuously scans its surroundings using a web camera. I used a program written in Python and the Open Computer Vision library to scan images coming from the web camera. The program first zooms to the human face (if present) in the images.

If it detects a human face, it then tries to identify the facial emotions to see if the person is happy or sad. How does it do that? The program focuses on two aspects of your face: the mouth and the eyes. If the mouth is curving up and your eyes look like eyes when people are happy then it will think you are happy.

Making MARS bot using household material

Similarly, if notices that mouth is curving down and eyes do not seem like the eyes of a happy person then it thinks you are sad. After knowing your expression it sends a command to the Arduino using PySerial.

The Arduino controls the 3 servos in the robot (two for the hands and one for the neck). Based on the signals received by the Arduino, the Arduino moves the servo. The MARS bot raises one hand if it detects you are sad to give you a high-five to cheer you up and also makes a sad face. And when the Astronaut becomes happy again it lifts both its hands and makes a happy face.  

Programming MARS bot

It took me three weeks to make the MARS Bot starting from imagining it to actually building the robot using household materials and then programming it.

I really enjoyed building the MARS bot and giving a demo of it at my school, at the Science Rendezvous, Ontario Science Centre and at the Innovations Nations Conference.

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