Cyert ProCam Project: Teach a Robot to See : Process

The following sections provide more details on the goals, process, and outcomes of the ProCam project. For an overview, please see the main project page.


The project outcomes are closely tied to the educational process of the Cyert Center, so the following outcomes essentially track the stages of the children’s exploration of the system as it was developed. The exploratory nature of constructivist education means that the outcomes do not represent absolute goals, but that success is defined by the children satisfying their own personal goals through engagement with the technology. For this reason, the primary measures are qualitative assessments of how the children are formulating their own questions and answering them. The “target audience” comprises one or more groups of participating children, and the “community” includes the children, educators, and parents of the Cyert Center. In this context we envisioned the following specific outcomes:

  1. Development of an interactive robot vision system suited for use by children aged four and five, including a reference hardware design, software, and documentation.
  2. Development by the children of a visual language with which they can create a visual representation of an idea in collaboration with the system.
  3. Development by the children of an investigation through which they are able to use the visual language of objects as interpreted by the robot to work through relevant questions and develop theories which answer inquiries of their choosing.
  4. The creation of storytelling “performances” in which a group of children collaborates with the system to tell a story to their satisfaction. These may be very dynamic and transient moments in which the children combine visual elements and motions to stage a scenario, but these can be documented by logging the interaction to reconstruct such moments later.
  5. An increased comfort with technology in the children as they develop an appreciation for the possibilities of technology as a graphic arts medium for self-expression.
  6. An increased comfort and understanding on the part of the educators and parents (the “community") regarding the potential for interactive technology in early childhood education.
  7. The adherence of the technology to best practices for early childhood education through the close participation of the educators during development. The NAEYC “Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media...” offers a set of guidelines by which the acceptability of the technology can be gauged. We expect that by giving the educators the opportunity to shape the development according to these guidelines we can produce an experience consistent with the Cyert Center methodology.


The project planning began in April 2014. The primary technical development took place over the Summer and Fall of 2014. The initial group of children was formed in Spring 2015, and their investigation proceeded from April to November of 2015.


Technology development. Garth Zeglin and Anurag Jakhotia created a hardware and software system for providing an interactive tabletop experience for children using a video projector, camera, and computer mounted above the table (the "ProCam", or "the robot").

Children's research. Barbara Moser and Suzanne Grove worked with a leading group of four children (ages 4-5) over more than thirty sessions to explore the nature of the ProCam. Nine of those sessions included actual use of the ProCam; for these Garth Zeglin was present as observer. The children explored the robot's visual capabilities and behavior, moved into identifying and exploring their own wishes for what it might do, then developed and tested their own plan for collaborating with the robot.

Children's presentation. The leading group of four children developed a presentation for their peers including video interviews, documentation, and a live performance. This was performed on November 17, 2015 for approximately twenty members of their new Fall class to explain their ongoing work with the ProCam.

Conference presentation. Barbara Moser gave a short presentation about the project at the "Reggio Emilia at the Confluence" conference in Pittsburgh on November 10, 2015 as part of a panel discussion.

Staff meeting. Barbara Moser shared the short presentation with the Cyert Center staff on November 18, 2015 during an evening study group as a way to communicate about the progress of the project with colleagues.

Parent's meeting. Barbara, Suzanne, and Garth met with six of the parents of the leading group children on December 2, 2015 to provide more context on the children's activities, hear the parent's perspective, and to answer questions.