Active Learning Environments with Robotic Tangibles

Active Learning Environments with Robotic Tangibles (ALERT) are mixed reality video gaming systems that use sensors, vision systems, and robots to provide an engaging experience that may motivate hitherto underrepresented kinds of learners to become interested in game design, programming, and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Through the use of fiducials (i.e., meaningful markers) recognized by robots through computer vision as just-in-time instructions, users engage in spatially-based programming without the encumbrances of traditional procedural programs’ syntax and structure. Since humans, robots, and video environments share many inherently spatial qualities, this natural style of physical programming is particularly well suited to fostering playful interactions with mobile robots in dynamic video environments. As these systems broaden the capabilities of video game technology and human-robot interaction (HRI) they are lowering many existing barriers to integrated video- robot game development and programming. Diverse ALERT video game scenarios and applications are enabling a broad range of gamers, learners, and developers to generate and engage in their own physically interactive games.


ALERT: Sally Ride Science Festival, Tempe, Ariz., 2008 on Vimeo.

ALERT: Maker Faire, San Mateo, Calif., 2008 on Vimeo.

Mixed Reality Video-Robot Gaming System on Vimeo.




Lahey, B., Burleson, W., Jensen, C. N., Freed, N., and Lu, P. (2008) “Integrating video games and robotic play in physical environments”; Proceedings of the 2008 ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Video Games (Los Angeles, California, August 09 - 10, 2008). Sandbox '08. ACM, New York, NY, 107-114. August 2008. 

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Natalie Freed continued to develop work at the MIT Lab: When the playroom is the computer.