Computational Linguistics & Phonetics Computational Linguistics & Phonetics Fachrichtung 4.7 Universität des Saarlandes

Talking Robots with LEGO MindStorms 2004

Software project, Computational Linguistics, 8LP

Lecturers: Alexander Koller and Geert-Jan Kruiff


  • The final projects of 2004 are finished! In only 7 weeks (plus an introductory learning phase), three teams of three students each have designed, built, and implemented three very cool talking robots. See pictures and movies here: Bartender, Blackjack dealer, Logistics robot.
  • Geert-Jan will give a talk on the Talking Lego Robots at COLING 2004 on 23-26 August in Geneva. A PDF version of the paper is available online.
  • We have been featured on Duke Speaks!, a blog about speech-related Java resources by Paul Lamere at Sun Labs.
In books, and in the movies, robots always talk. But in practice, they rarely do ... The goal of this course is to explore the possibilities of combining two fields, namely robotics and computational linguistics, to create robots that can communicate. The task is for teams of students to build "interesting" (cool!) robots using LEGO MindStorms, and then couple these robots to a dialog system including speech-recognition and speech-synthesis.

This is the second installment of the highly successful Talking Robots seminar from WS 2002/03. We might focus the thematic area of the talking robots some more this time, but haven't fixed a theme yet.

We provide LEGO MindStorms kits and the tools for building spoken dialog systems. We have also developed a framework that hides most technical details of the creation of new talking robots. What the students need to provide is creativity and ingenuity!

LEGO MindStorms

On the robotics side, we use Lego MindStorms. The Lego Robotics Invention System lets one create robots using the familiar Lego bricks. At the heart of the robot is a programmable Lego computer, the RCX, which controls the robot's sensors and micro-motors. To program robots, we make use of the Lejos Java virtual machine for the RCX.

LEGO Germany has kindly provided us with four Robotics Invention System kits and four Ultimate Builders kits, for the purpose of this course.

Enrollment, prerequisites

Because we only have enough sets for four teams, up to 12 students can enroll (3 per team).

Prior experience with programming in Java would be a plus. It is possible to learn enough about Java from the Java I course, plus some self-study.

In order to be able to run all the software, each team must have access to at least one PC that has a USB interface and runs a version of Windows that supports this. Yes, it must be a PC that runs Windows.