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Children Get A New Reading Companion in This New Robot

"This robot supports an engaging reading activity, but it's not a social companion to the extent that you could have an open conversation with it."

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New interactive robot can be your kid's reading buddy. Flickr

A new interactive robot, programmed to be an interested listener, may serve as a reading companion for your kid, a new study suggests.

The new robot named “Minnie” can react, cajole and appear thoughtful, said the researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, who have developed the robot.

For the study, the research team designed a two-week reading programme including 25 books representing a range of reading skills and story complexities.

According to the team, the children grew more excited about books and more attached to the robot over two weeks of reading together.

“After one interaction, the kids were generally telling us that, sure, it was nice to have someone to read with as a reading companion,” said co-author Joseph Michaelis from the varsity.

Robot, Reading Companion
FILE – A visitor shakes hands with a humanoid robot at 2018 China International Robot Show in Shanghai (VOA)

“But by the end of two weeks, they were talking about how the robot was funny and silly and afraid, and how they’d come home looking forward to seeing it again,” he added.

The number of children who told the robot has a personality or emotions increased more than four-fold over the two weeks they spent with the robot, the researchers said.

The number reporting they were motivated to read also spiked — and surpassed a control group following a paper-based version of the reading programme. And kids who read with the robot said they felt like they understood and remembered more about the shared books, they added.

Also Read: AI Robots to Help the Students of Japan in Enhancing English Speaking Skills

Social learning — pairing up with a peer to complete math problems or read a chapter in a textbook — is a powerful way to help students develop skills and interests, suggests the findings published in the journal Science Robotics.

“This robot supports an engaging reading activity, but it’s not a social companion to the extent that you could have an open conversation with it. If you had a much more capable robot, that picture might change,” co-author Bilge Mutlu, Professor at the varsity noted.(IANS)

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Intel and Cray Collaborate With U.S. Government, Aims for Nation’s Fastest Computer

The world's current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

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Intel
This Jan. 1, 2018, file photo shows an Intel logo on the box containing an HP desktop computer on sale at a Costco in Pittsburgh. VOA

A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel and Cray to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said Monday.

The Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago said they were working on a supercomputer dubbed Aurora with Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of data center chips, and Cray, which specializes in the ultra-fast machines.

The $500 million contract for the project calls on the companies to deliver a computer with so-called exaflop performance — that is, being able to perform 1 quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

Computer
It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers. VOA

If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) calculations a second.

It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers.

One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.

Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Department of Veterans Affairs prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news
briefing.

The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora.

FILE - The Nvidia booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2017.
The Nvidia booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2017. VOA

Intel has been fending off rival U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp.’s rise in the chip content of supercomputers as the machines take on more artificial intelligence work. Nvidia’s chips are found in five of the world’s current top 10 supercomputers, though the Nvidia chips are found alongside chips from its rivals, according to TOP500, which ranks the machines.

The world’s current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

The source of chips for supercomputers has become a factor in trade tensions between the United States and China. The world’s third-fastest supercomputer — the Sunway TaihuLight in China — has chips developed domestically in China.

Also Read: U.S. Tariffs on China Could Remain Same, Even After Reaching The Trade Deal

Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner who studies the supercomputing market, said that despite the small contract size relative to Intel’s overall revenue, the work done on Aurora will eventually filter down to the company’s commercial customers.

“It’s not just a jingoistic race between the U.S. and China,” Dekate said. “The innovations that Intel is developing here will percolate down to other parts of its business.” (VOA)