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Zain meets Madeline Gannon
Robot Whisperer

Zain meets Madeline Gannon | Kidspiration

Madeline Gannon has her very own robot. It doesn’t walk on two legs or talk to her but it can follow her and “watch” her when she moves around in front of it. Ms. Gannon’s robot is Mimus, a 1,200 kilogram (2,500 pounds) industrial robot with a long moveable arm.

Mimus is part of an exhibit at London’s Design Museum. She doesn’t have any preprogrammed moves but waits till someone interesting moves in front of her. Then she comes to see who’s visiting!

Ms. Gannon combines design and robotics knowledge with human-computer interaction in her work. She is the head of ATONATON, a research studio that is creating better ways to communicate with machines. She is also developing techniques for digitally designing and making wearables on and around the body.

In high school, she visited museums but was more interested in the buildings than the exhibits. “That gave me a hint that architecture was something I wanted to get into,” she told a magazine interviewer.

She went to university to study architecture but along the way, decided that interacting with computers was more exciting than designing buildings. I wanted to learn how to talk to this machine so I could do more interesting things with it,” she said.

She became obsessed with the big industrial robots like Mimus, turning them from machines that are programmed to build planes and cars on assembly lines to machines that can interact with their human designers.

Robots are all around us, Ms. Gannon points out — today we can send a command to turn on the dishwasher from our smart phone. And many wheelchairs have robotic arms to help their users pick up objects and do small tasks in their living spaces.

She hopes humans and robots will share our world peacefully and wants to build bigger and better robots in the future. For kids who’d like to do the same thing, she says, “be curious, And don’t ever stop playing!”