Robot-enhanced online learning

Nieuws | de redactie
31 mei 2012 | Two American researchers built a mind-reading robot that keeps students alert when they are about to lose their focus. Tests show that the machine which imitates gestures and voice alterations of human teachers may enhance study outcomes of online learners significantly.

NewScientist reports that Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir fromthe University of Wisconsin-Madison built a robot that can readminds and engage with students like a teacher. For this purpose,the two researchers connected a Japanese Wakamaru humanoid robot to an EEG which in turnmeasures brain activity of a student. Once the EEG indicated thatthe student was losing attention, the robot used techniquesemployed by human teachers like raising your voice or usinggestures to underline an argument.

Better learning impact

This device was tested subsequently with three groups ofstudents. One of them studied an old Japanese story with the helpof an engaging Wakamaru robot. The other two groups were taught thesame story by a non- or randomly-engaging robot. The group learningwith a mind-reading robot scored on average 9 out 14 points on asubsequent tests, while non-engaged students scored a 6.3.

Andrew Ng, director at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab inCalifornia, commented: “One-on-one tutoring has been repeatedlyshown to give dramatic results in student learning, but the mainproblem with it is the cost, and that it’s just difficult to scale.The vision of automatically measuring student engagement so as tobuild a more interactive teacher is very exciting.”

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