Robots serve well as educational assistants: Study

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison show robots can be efficient teaching assistants

A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers is revealing some interesting uses of robots in the classroom.

The project is the work of Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir of the Department of Computer Sciences at the university.

According to the researchers, cue-giving robots could help students learn better. Hitherto, humanity has almost become accustomed to the fact that we “teach” robots. However, that could change soon if this study is anything to by. Researchers are finding ways in which robots may play a crucial role in the learning process. The researchers developed a robot that uses subtle, human-like cues to engage listeners.

According to the researchers, the robots may play a key role in enhancing student lessons memory. For instance, in a collaborative environment, the robots could play a more efficient role by monitoring the behavioural, emotional, and mental states of their users and providing appropriate, effective responses.

The research reveals the robots do better in a classroom learning environment than a human assistant or other teaching aids. For instance, it can detect when students are getting bored and respond accordingly by helping them re-engage in learning. In a trial run, the researchers programmed a humanoid Wakamaru robot for storytelling and later determined how much of the story the students could remember.

To monitor learning and concentration, the researchers employed the use of electroencephalography (EEG). Most interestingly, the robots could revive interest in the students by altering its tone or gestures. The robots could effectively monitor student concentration through brain signals. If it detects a decline in certain brain signals, the robot responds with programmed human-like cues. The findings indicated that students who received cues from robots could remember the story better than the others.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of this study.

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