With googly eyes watching and candy ready for the taking, “Herbie” is the latest representative of the computer science department — according to his creator and computer science professor John Seng.
“I’ve always thought that our computer science department needed a robot,” Seng said. “Once I put the face on, then it took on his own life.”
Seng worked on this project on and off for many years, having tried it twice during his 16 years at Cal Poly. Finally, he said he decided he would do the bulk of the project himself, and then bring students in for the finish.
The three computer engineering students working on the project with him are seniors Angelique Bonilla, Amanda Krysl and Daniel Jones.
Seng said Herbie may or may not be a student, but he is certainly Seng’s roommate.
“This is like his dorm room,” Seng said, motioning to his office. “He kind of lives on campus and does different things — I just call him like a Cal Poly friend.”
The robot itself is controlled by a series of codes Seng created and gets around the building via cameras built into the front of the structure. Herbie uses a database of pictures to locate and match up where he is in the building and to detect obstacles in his way.
If it ever gets into a jam, it makes an “R2-D2-esque” beeping noise, or spins around in a circle until it can redirect itself.
“There’s a lot of potential for Herbie, I think, through the years,” Seng said. “I have a lot of big plans for him.”
Herbie around campus
Seng is never too far away from the robot, but he said he enjoys watching the reactions of people passing him by.
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“I try to hide when I’m running him,” Seng said. “There have been people who come up and they are just confused.”
One girl, he said, came up to the robot asking where its parents were.
“Another guy, the other day, he was looking around and he asked me, ‘Are you his parent?’’’ Seng said.
Then he responded yes.