REVIEWS of HUBOTS:
"Introductions to 10 robots modeled on the human body, with thoughts on their current and future uses. Pepper, a robot designed by a Japanese firm "to provide companionship," is the only one of the gallery that is currently being produced rather than in a prototype stage. The other nine are mostly built for emergency or industrial work, such as SAFFiR, a "Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot"; Hubo , which can bend and also shift from legs to wheels; and Valkyrie, a NASA project intended for off-Earth work. For each Becker offers very general physical specifications, a "Mission," a brief description of its "Superpower," and a bulleted list of possible applications. More generally, she also takes closer general looks at robotic hands, eyes, and other necessary components, glances at artificial intelligence and its corporeal cousin, embodied intelligence, and discusses the statistical "uncanny valley" or "ick factor" in observers' reactions to robots that look almost but not quite human. She closes by floating the notion of robots' rights, suggesting that it might already be too late to keep them from taking over the world. Depicted with glossy realism that fades at the bottom into sketches to show that they are mostly conceptual designs, Ries' robots—particularly the ones with light- or dark-skinned human faces—stare inscrutably out at viewers. Mostly speculative, a t this p oint, but the topic offers equal measures of promise and provocation. (index, resource list) (Nonfiction. 9-11)" - Kirkus
"Gr 3-5–The humanlike robots profiled here range from SAFFiR, a shipboard firefighter being developed by the U.S. Navy, and Valkyrie, a NASA project for performing maintenance and other simple tasks in a space colony, to the German NimbRo-OP, designed to play competitive soccer as a platform for studying robot movement and perception, and even Pepper, produced by the Japanese company SoftBank for human companionship. Each section about a ¬particular robot offers a few paragraphs of description, followed by bulleted lists of specifications and applications, as well as a “status update,” indicating where the technology stands in the development process and what organization is responsible for it. In addition to the robot profiles, a sidebar addresses the question whether “hubots” can think and introduces the concept of embodied intelligence, where robots collect data from their environment and learn from it. A later section presents “a closer look” at different models of hands, feet, and vision used by developers. Others address the “uncanny valley,” the unease inspired by robots when they reach a particular stage of human likeness. Ries’s illustrations range from bold, photorealistic depictions of the robots to colorful drawings of what they might look like in action. The text includes references to two recent books and two websites for more information, as well as a glossary and index, but no source notes or citations. VERDICT A light treatment of a very timely subject, recommended for middle grade independent reading and technology research."
- SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Hubots is full of actual robots and robot prototypes designed to learn from and/or mimic human behaviour. The range of robots profiled here is impressive. Among the 10 we meet are Atlas Unplugged, a six-foot figure to be used as a rescue bot during disasters, and NimbRo-OP, a little guy with a smiley face designed to play soccer in the RoboCup league (which deserves its own stand-alone book). Each profile breaks down a robot’s given powers, features, uses, and current status, with most still at the “working prototype” stage.
Along with the profiles, Becker offers no-nonsense explanations of concepts like artificial intelligence (technology that thinks), embodied intelligence (tech that learns), and the uncanny valley (the term used to explain why almost-human faces on robots or in CGI-heavy movies look so unsettling). The book also includes a glossary, a closer look at common humanoid robot features such as hands and feet, and a few suggestions for further reading. - QUILL AND QUIRE
REVIEWS OF ZOOBOTS:
"Zoobots? What exciting “first generation” inventions this book introduces! Scientists are making science fiction come alive in research labs and university labs around the world, from the nanobot that can move around in human blood vessels to the 200-pound “Ole Pill Bug” designed to withstand temperatures up to 1850°F and aid in fighting forest fires. These animal-inspired robots will only spawn newer, even stranger robots in the future. For now, though, all but 4 of the 12 robots featured have working prototypes; the others are in development. Using scientific headings, a black background, and a larger-than-life Photoshop illustration of each zoobot (along with a smaller illustration of the animal on which it is based), this ought to engage the imagination of future scientists—and who knows what they might create? This one won’t stay on library shelves for long."
— J. B. Petty, Booklist
"Zoobots looks at a dozen creations in various stages of development, from concept to working prototypes. Becker shares a marvellous selection of robots, including the human-like Geminoid F, microscopic nanobots, and the heavyweight Ole Pill Bug – a 200-pound fire-fighting machine.
Each robot gets a double-page spread that provides basic information, including the animal that inspired it, some simple applications, and a “super skill.” Becker also provides a brief description of the natural characteristics borrowed by each robot, such as the sensitive whiskers of the Etruscan pygmy shrew that are replicated on the Shrewbot’s movable “nose,” allowing it to gather information that can be relayed back to its operator. The text is supported beautifully by Ries’s bright, graphic artwork and a handy glossary."
- Quill and Quire
"Robot Snakes. That’s the first thing that jumped out at me when I saw the cover of this book on NetGalley, and I knew that not only would my 10 year-old love this book, but so would every 10 year-old in the several library sites I oversee. That is the kind of book Zoobots is – it’s a win-win situation. You have robot animals, complete with facts about the functions and statistics on the robotic creatures, plus profiles on the animals influencing them; you also have the nonfiction aspect, which makes it compatible with Common Core focus on nonfiction texts, with the extra STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) appeal that will hopefully inspire a reader or 3 to become a scientist and actually work with these robots.Helaine Becker’s text is chunked into a dossier-type format, complete with futuristic fonts. We get the name of the robot – some include the Shrewbot, the Octobot, the Ghostbot, and the Nanobot – and what class of animal its influence belongs to (i.e., mammalia, reptilia). There are skills, specifications, and applications: the growing number of robotics dedicated to the medical industry alone is amazing, as is the idea of using pill bug-inspired robots to help prevent raging forest fires. Special Ops describes special talents these robots can use while in the field; my favorite is the Uncle Sam snake robot, who can actually assemble itself!
There is no science fiction here – all of the 12 robot animals profiled are in some sort of prototype stage, whether being developed or in existence. A section on the future wonders what further robots future minds will create, which I hope spurs some readers to start sketching and joining robotics teams. There is a glossary of terms and a full index.
I loved this book, and think it belongs in libraries and science classes throughout elementary and middle schools. The illustrations, by concept artist and illustrator Alex Ries, give life to the robotics, spotlighting their flexibility and their features. The book is only 36 pages, but the number of lesson plans and ideas that can come out of this? Boundless."
- Mom Read It Blog
"Readers interested in science, science fiction, or just cool and weird stuff will have fun with Zoobots, a look at robots inspired by real animals.
Author of many science books, Helaine Becker examines 12 different robots now in working prototypes or in development. Each robot is based on a real animal and has been engineered to mimic that creature’s characteristics or abilities. For instance, the Shrewbot has delicate whisker-like sensors; it can be used to explore hidden areas, sniff out bombs, or used in search and rescue missions. Its inspiration is the Etruscan Pygmy Shrew, a nocturnal animal who uses its extraordinarily sensitive whiskers to assess its surroundings in the dark and hunt for food.
Becker gives us other pairings of robots and their animal counterparts — the Stickybot III that climbs like a gecko, the Ghostbot that ripples through water like the unusual Black Ghost Knifefish, and many others based on animals as varied as cockroaches, bacteria, jellyfish and even humans.
Each doublepage spread presents a description of the robot’s “super skills” and applications, as well as a short and informative look at the animal the robot “evolved” from. Vivid and detailed digital illustrations by Australian artist Alex Ries add to our understanding.
A glossary and index are included, but this book is also an intriguing look at the future of robots — and some strange and interesting animals as well."
- National Reading Campaign
"When you think of robots, it’s not likely the 12 “robo-animals” that author Helaine Becker describes in her newest book, Zoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals. Unlike Pixar’s Wall-E, Star Wars’ R2D2, Zoomer the interactive robotic dog, and Honda’s humanoid, the robots Becker writes about have been developed to carry out tasks that humans can’t, and they mimic the physical characteristics of particular animals to do so. These animals include the bat described above, the pill bug with seven pairs of legs and overlapping scales of chitin, the octopus with boneless arms of muscle that act independently and can be strong and rigid or flimsy and soft, the cockroach with its tank-like build, 75 cm per second scuttle speed, and swarm intelligence, and jellyfish that also make use of collective intelligence and move through the oceans by expanding and contracting their bodies to push water behind them...
Zoobots is 32 pages in length and includes a table of contents, a two-page spread for each robo-animal, glossary, index, and one page wherein Becker makes clear that the zoobots described are first generation animal robots, and she predicts what the future for roboticists and their animal-inspired robots may be.
As surreal and amazing as Becker’s descriptions are, they come alive through the artwork of Alex Ries and the design of Julia Naimska. Each page is beautifully planned, laid out, and illustrated. Readers who pick up the book because of the transforming snake on the cover will be amazed by the detailed depiction of the Shrewbot (based on the Etruscan pigmy shrew), Stickybot III (based on the gecko), the Ghostbot (based on the black ghost knightfish), and others of these astonishing mechanical animals.
Highly Recommended. 4 out of 4 stars" - CM Magazine
"Science fiction comes to life in this riveting showcase of zoobots - robots based on actual animals. Meet Squeeze, an octobot based on the octopus; Slither, a serpentine robot based on snakes, and 10 other fascinating robots. Intriguing an informative, this book will take readers on a walk on the wild side of robotic engineering."
- Canadian Children's Book Centre