Letters: Personal Robots, War Of 1812


June 19, 2012

Robert Siegel and Melissa Block read emails from listeners about personal robots and the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

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Moving on now to your letters. And some of you responded to Melissa’s story yesterday from Silicon Valley about personal robots. In the near future they might help us around the house, do chores, walk our dogs.


I visited with Leila Takayama. She’s a research scientist who studies human-robot interaction. One challenge for her: How should robots communicate with people?


LEILA TAKAYAMA: That was one of my favorites for getting people’s attention.


TAKAYAMA: So this is: Hey.


TAKAYAMA: That’s sad, sad.



TAKAYAMA: Yeah, I feel kind of bad for him.

BLOCK: Those are some robot sounds that Leila developed with a sound designer at Pixar.

SIEGEL: Well, Mark Morris of Port St. Lucie, Florida has this suggestion. He writes: They need to come up with an eye-rolling sigh to remind humans that the robot is patiently waiting for the human to get out of the way, so the robot can continue to work.

BLOCK: And we heard from you about another story on yesterday’s program about the War of 1812, fought 200 years ago. It’s not a war many people in the U.S. know much about, but in Canada it’s a big deal.

SIEGEL: I talked with two teachers, one in the U.S. and one in Canada, about how they teach this history. In the American teacher’s class it’s a short unit, a couple of days. In the Canadian’s class it’s a unit three or four weeks long, about a war central to the development of the country’s national identity. For people in Canada, repelling the American’s effort to annex its neighbor to the north was a defining victory.

BLOCK: Well, Liz Donner of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania came to understand that on a trip to Ottawa. She writes this: I went on a tour of parliament. And when the guide asked if there was anyone from the States, I was the only one to raise my hand. In my best whine I said, oh no, now I have to hear your side of the story. Everyone laughed but I learned a lot about that war during that trip. They really do have a different take on it.

SIEGEL: We’d like to hear your take on things. Keep the letters coming. You can write to us by visiting NPR.org. Click on Contact Us.

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