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Kindergarten Bots Teach Language to Tots

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Kobusto the DragonBot.

Experiments at MIT are testing how well children retain new words they learn from robots. The project uses DragonBots like this one to offer personalized teaching.

Credit: Kristopher Dos Santos

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate student Jacqueline Kory is conducting a series of experiments at MIT's Media Lab on how well children can learn from robots, in collaboration with research team leader Cynthia Breazeal. They are testing children to see how well they retain new words learned from robots over time, using social storytelling robots called DragonBots that offer personalized teaching.

The DragonBots feature a cute aesthetic design combined with eye movements and other reactive elements and behaviors that enhance the narratives they communicate to children in conjunction with images displayed on tablet computers.

Among the insights gained from the tests was the fact that children seem more willing to trust robots that mirror their body language, and their tendency to learn is better as a consequence.

The DragonBots currently only function in a controlled environment, but upgraded next-generation devices could be applied to homes and schools. The Sesame Workshop's Michael Levine says the DragonBots surmount the basic challenge of individualization, which is innate to the development of educational content for TV and tablets.

Breazeal sees the research offering "a tremendous opportunity to develop new technology to support children's education, especially early childhood learning."

From New Scientist
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