Aldebaran’s Update Part 2: Choregraphe 2.1


JannaDougherty
NAO on September 23 2014

Aldebaran released the newest version of their signature product, the NAO robot, this June, alongside a new version of their Choregraphe software.  We at Teq have had some time to explore the changes, and have noted quite a few improvements in both the robots and the software that we think teachers will appreciate. In a previous blog post, we covered the hardware changes in the NAO robot. However, there just as many changes in the new software. Here’s a few important ones that teachers thinking of upgrading should know.

STEM teachers who work with programming movement should note that the update has replaced the Gear Stiffness controls at the top of the layout. The new standard set of buttons include Wake up, Rest, and Autonomous Life buttons. If teachers and students find the change confusing, it is possible to change the controls back to the more familiar “Stiffen joints” command. One thing worth nothing about the new change, however, is  that Autonomous Life now comes as part of the software—not just as an app—and can be turned on and off with just the press of a button.Choregraphe6

In addition, the motion controls for creating motion with a virtual robot have become more intuitive, presenting it in a visual format along with the degree measures shown in the previous version. With this step, students can move the virtual robot’s limbs manually, as well as with the degree sliders.

Choregraphe5

One new feature that caught my attention is the addition of the Dialog box to the box library. Combined with the script editor, programmers can
create dialogues where NAO listens to you and responds in kind.  I found the resulting conversations with my robot to be more realistic, and as a result a lot more fun to both use and program.

This sort of interaction makes NAO a great platform for publishing non-STEM projects, such as stories ( here’s a link to archived PD on using NAO for ELA, for those of you who would like an example), Dialog allows students more flexibility to create narratives, scripts and conversations to match a wide set of ELA projects and standards.

An example of the Dialog box...
An example of the Dialog box…
as well as the Script Editor, which students can use to write conversations with NAO.
as well as the Script Editor, which students can use to write conversations with NAO.

Many of the changes, however, have the most benefit for STEM teachers. For example, Choregraphe has added a new box that makes transitioning to advanced programming lessons easier. The New Python Script box creates a completely blank area which students can populate with their own coding script. This makes NAO increasingly flexible as a tool for teaching programming: students can start with Choregraphe’s visual format, then graduate to editing and eventually creating complete programs on their own!

Aldebaran has also increased the list of boxes that can be tested without a physical robot. In previous versions, boxes such as Learn Face and Speech Recognition were not supported by the NAOqi virtual robots, which meant that students who wanted to build programs using these boxes needed to have a robot to test their work. With Choregraphe 2.1, these and many other boxes are now possible to test with virtual robots, which makes the learning process of trial and error more accessible in a classroom with limited physical robots.

The Timeline for customized motions has been refined as well. Students can now zoom in on specific portions of their timeline, play it by steps instead of all at once, move backwards and forwards, or even ‘mute’ portions of it to help with the troubleshooting process.

STEM teachers will be pleased to find that the control available when programming walking has been improved with the addition of the Planar Move box. With Planar Move, students can select a start point, an end point, and points between the two that the robot must reach while moving. Students can also use keyframes to manipulate the speed the robot moves between these points. These additions make the robot’s use for modelling problems more precise and more versatile, especially for math, physics, and engineering classes.

A sample walk cycle using Planar Move, with the walk beginning and ending in the same place.
A sample walk cycle using Planar Move, with the walk beginning and ending in the same place.

Finally, Choregraphe has updated the way it manages programs already uploaded onto the robot. Instead of last version’s Behavior Manager, this function is found in the Robot Applications menu, which sorts those programs as projects instead of behaviors. Those who are familiar with the Behavior Manager may struggle at first, but the end result is still essentially the same—a list of the applications downloaded to the robot, which can be played from Choregraphe. The greatest change seems to be that the downloading process no longer works both ways: Programs that are on your robot and not the computer cannot be downloaded from the robot and altered.

choregraphe1

At this point, it is possible to upgrade the previous version NAO robots to the new operating system, for use with the new Choregraphe. Aldebaran has provided a step-by-step guide to performing this upgrade on their website.  New robots, though, will be automatically compatible with Choregraphe 2.0, and allow you to make use of the new features and refined layout immediately.