PARSIPPANY — Nao (pronounced now) was the main attraction at a recent Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany evening meeting, on Wednesday, March 11. The meeting was open to all Kiwanis members, the general public and members of Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education.

Nao is an engaging, humanoid robot capturing the attention of special needs children and their teachers. The robot is especially effective with students with autism who have difficulty processing the complexity of human interactions. A Kiwanis International Foundation grant of $15,000 helped pay for Nao robot in the Warren County school district. The Kiwanis Club of Washington, project helps not only special needs students, but also involves high schoolers in advanced computer science who are programming the robot.

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Student Nick Gagliano, Warren County Psychologist Warren Shya, Student Tyler Henning, Joseph Flynn, Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany President Mimi Letts and Vice President Connie Keller with Nao

The presentation was given by two students at Warren County Special School Services District.

High School seniors Tyler Henning and Nick Gagliano began programming Nao robot to interact with special education students and have done several in-school demonstrations.

Nao, an autonomous, programmable humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company headquartered in Paris. The robot’s development began with the launch of Project Nao in 2004. On August 15, 2007, Nao replaced Sony’s robot dog Aibo as the robot used in the RoboCup Standard Platform League, an international robot competition. The Nao was used in RoboCup 2008 and 2009, and the NaoV3R was chosen as the platform for the SPL at RoboCup 2010.

Several versions of the robot have been released since 2008. The Nao Academics Edition was developed for universities and laboratories for research and education purposes. It was released to institutions in 2008, and was made publicly available by 2011. More recent upgrades to the Nao platform include the 2011 Nao Next Gen and the 2014 Nao Evolution.

Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany President Mimi Letts said “Our Kiwanis club was particularly excited when we learned about the robot Nao because it was being used to help children with autism. The motto of Kiwanis is ‘Making the world better one child and one community at a time’, so using the robot to help our children struggling with autism exemplifies the mission of Kiwanis.”

Parsippany resident Roy Messmer, said “This was a wonderful presentation that Kiwanis Club offered the public. Nao can be used in our district to help special needs students. I am glad the Board of Education gave Kiwanis the opportunity to demonstrate Nao to the public.”

During the demonstataion, Nao asked Jacob Meth, “Can you show me the one dollar bill?” Jacob holds a one-dollar bill in front of the Robot’s eyes, “That is correct,” says Nao. When there is a mistake, the robot simply says, “Try again.” There is no tone or disappointment or judgment and no change in the body posture. Finally, the robot leads in some fitness exercises and dance.

Nao robots have been used for research and education purposes in numerous academic institutions worldwide. As of 2015, over 5,000 Nao units are in use in 50+ countries.

Parsippany’s Video-on-the-go filmed the event and can be viewed here.

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Copyright 2015 Parsippany Focus

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