Researchers at MIT  have been working on squishy robots for a while, like a blue teddy bear that helps kids forget their troubles when they’re in the hospital. Now an MIT group is working on a robot to help kids learn languages. But teaching language is not the only goal here. This robot teacher is intended to read kids’ emotions and provide appropriate responses. 

The MIT Personal Robots Group explains that their goal was twofold: to test how the robot performed teaching English-speaking kids Spanish, and to test whether the robot’s ability to respond helped kids learn.  “In a two-month microgenetic study, 34 preschool children played an interactive game with a fully autonomous robot and the robot’s virtual sidekick, a Toucan shown on a tablet screen…We found that children learned new words and that affective personalization led to greater  positive responses from the children.” In other words, as the robot personalized its responses to kids over time, kids learned better.

The cute video above shows the range of responses kids had to the robot. One little guy was a bit spooked but got more comfortable over time. Kids hugged, petted, and sassed the robot.

The researchers have said they don’t want robots to replace teachers (let’s hope not!), but it does seem as if there may be a place for robot teaching assistants in the classroom of the future.

(Thanks to Mark DeLoura’s Level Up Report for telling us about this story.)


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Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda or her family foundation's website,