Author Paul Virr’s latest picture book, The Brainiac’s Book of Robots and AI, is a treasure trove for anyone desiring to know more about robots and AI (artificial intelligence). From the opening pages to the very end, programmers, robot lovers, AI enthusiasts and automaton groupies are spoon-fed everything from the history of robots to the arrival of AI.

There is so much to unpack in this book. First, readers learn that most robots are NOT like the ones that take over human-kind, like in the thriller movies. Most are designed to do one thing, and one thing only. Example: space bots explore and do experiments on distant planets; delivery bots deliver food; factory bots stack food or boxes; and so on. After calmly reassuring readers that all robots aren’t like the maniacs in the movies, the book dives in to what a robot is (it works; it moves; it senses the world around it; etc), Mr. Virr offers a quick practice test on how to “Spot the Robot” based on descriptions he has provided.

From there, readers and history-lovers can dive into a delightful section on robots of yesterday, like the self-driving cart created over 1,900 years ago, a robotic elephant clock created 800 years ago, and a mechanical boy (called The Writer) that wrote with a quill pen, created in the 1700’s.

Do you know what mechanical movers are? This book will teach you! Readers learn that mechanical movers are the body parts of robots (wheels, rotors, robot limbs or thrusters) that allow them to move. They also learn that robots can sense things because they have sight (cameras and light sensors), hearing, touch, and even gas detectors that warn them of dangerous leaks humans can’t smell. There are even more amazing sections in this books, like the geniuses behind the first computers, the definition of an algorithm and how it is used to program a robot, and various jobs robots can perform. Of course, humans can perform these jobs too, but since some of them are boring or stinky or must be one in extreme heat or cold, robots are happy to take the humans’ place.

This book is definitely a winner — and a keeper! The prose is fast-paced and informative and the illustration (by Harriet Russel) are vibrant and kid-friendly. Mr. Virr has offered a thorough, well-researched presentation of robots that appeals to children, but that also capture the interest of AI-loving adults. Don’t miss out on sections on robotic surgery, underwater bots, robo-buddy bots (dogs), space bots, and a host of other amazing information that is simply too vast to name here.

Use this book as an AI reference or a supplemental science text,. It should also be a winner in the arts and craft class since there are activity sections on everything from making a hopping frog automaton to building a robot hand.

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