Tony Belpaeme’s work on educational robotics

This past Friday I spoke to esteemed Human Robot Interaction Professor Angelo Cangelosi.

Angelo’s work is centred around human robot interaction, developmental robotics, robot understanding of language and real world concepts, and the use of neuromorphic systems for robot learning. He is the coordinator of the Horizon 2020 APRIL program (Applications of Personal Robotics through Interaction and Learning) amongst many other responsibilities in the robotics space. My Roborabbit activities allow me to meet truly amazing people!

Tony Belpaeme’s work on educational robots

Angelo gave me some great leads for me to research. The first was the work of Tony Belpaeme, professor at Gent and Plymouth Universities. The paper Social robots for education: A review (Belpaeme, Kennedy, Ramachandran, Scassellati and Tanaka, 2018) does a an analysis and collation of studies on the use of robots in children’s education. It examines the research from the perspective of robots used as teacher, peer and novice (in which the robot is taught by the child). Robots are helpful in an educational setting to aid in learning, having an effectiveness almost equal to that of human beings. Embodiment, meaning that the robot, unlike a virtual assistant, has a body, helps in learning by causing social reactions in humans that help in learning. Robots could allow for more enriched and individualised learning – these are challenges in the modern classroom.

“…physical robots have enhanced learning and affected later behavioral choice more substantially than virtual agents. Compared with instructions from virtual characters, videos of robots, or audio only lessons, robots have produced more rapid learning in cognitive puzzles…

There are many challenges to using a robot for education including:

  • Robustness of speech recognition for children
  • Other means of input like tablet input creating a disconnect
  • Building an understanding of learning progress in the robot
  • Choosing a next activity to challenge and engage the child
  • Knowing when to switch activities to engage the child
  • Generating a combination of verbal and nonverbal output and coordinating those
  • The question how far we want the teaching of our children to be delegated to robots
  • The question if we are restricting child development based on the capabilities of the technologies and not giving children what they really need

These are questions that Roborabbit will need to answer when we enter the social robot educational applications space. The paper also raised the idea that robots could be used in adult education. This could be an interesting avenue for investigation for the future.




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