Hubots: Real-World Robots Inspired by Humans

illus. by Alex Ries. 32p. bibliog. glossary. index. photos. websites. Kids Can. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781771387859.
Gr 3–5—The humanlike robots profiled here range from SAFFiR, a shipboard firefighter being developed by the U.S. Navy, and Valkyrie, a NASA project for performing maintenance and other simple tasks in a space colony, to the German NimbRo-OP, designed to play competitive soccer as a platform for studying robot movement and perception, and even Pepper, produced by the Japanese company SoftBank for human companionship. Each section about a particular robot offers a few paragraphs of description, followed by bulleted lists of specifications and applications, as well as a "status update," indicating where the technology stands in the development process and what organization is responsible for it. In addition to the robot profiles, a sidebar addresses the question whether "hubots" can think and introduces the concept of embodied intelligence, where robots collect data from their environment and learn from it. A later section presents "a closer look" at different models of hands, feet, and vision used by developers. Others address the "uncanny valley," the unease inspired by robots when they reach a particular stage of human likeness. Ries's illustrations range from bold, photorealistic depictions of the robots to colorful drawings of what they might look like in action. The text includes references to two recent books and two websites for more information, as well as a glossary and index, but no source notes or citations.
VERDICT A light treatment of a very timely subject, recommended for middle grade independent reading and technology research.

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