NewScientist reports that Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir from
the University of Wisconsin-Madison built a robot that can read
minds and engage with students like a teacher. For this purpose,
the two researchers connected a Japanese Wakamaru humanoid robot to an EEG which in turn
measures brain activity of a student. Once the EEG indicated that
the student was losing attention, the robot used techniques
employed by human teachers like raising your voice or using
gestures to underline an argument.
Better learning impact
This device was tested subsequently with three groups of
students. One of them studied an old Japanese story with the help
of an engaging Wakamaru robot. The other two groups were taught the
same story by a non- or randomly-engaging robot. The group learning
with a mind-reading robot scored on average 9 out 14 points on a
subsequent tests, while non-engaged students scored a 6.3.
Andrew Ng, director at Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Lab in
California, commented: "One-on-one tutoring has been repeatedly
shown to give dramatic results in student learning, but the main
problem with it is the cost, and that it's just difficult to scale.
The vision of automatically measuring student engagement so as to
build a more interactive teacher is very exciting."