Friday, March 21, 2014

Robots in School

I found an article about a robot named "Projo" that is being used in classrooms to help students with math:

(I recorded this on my phone but you can find the original video here)

Projo is a more advanced form of robot than the one in the Scientific American article. Projo interacts with students by greeting them with: "I am your friend, Projo" and greets students by name. This helps to form a bond between the students and the robot, something that seems to be one of it's features as researcher Sandra Okita states: "[It is] an artifact that you build a relationship with" and it is part of the "evolution of robots from tools to companions". Indeed it appears that students in the classroom are bonding with Projo and forming some kind of "friendship" with it: "Even though he is a robot he can be a good friend" (one of the students said). This simulated relationship might sound harmless right now, but what happens if one of the students thinks they've formed a real bond with it? Or with a more advanced android in the future? With the changing technology and advancement from robot to android, will children have a harder time figuring out who's real and who's artificial? Does that matter?

This is kind of a weird idea for me, because it makes me wonder what will happen to children's (and eventually humanity's) interactions with each other if they grow up socializing with a mechanical android. We already have problems with kids and young adults lacking social skills because of being attached to their cell phones all the time - what about being able to completely communicate with something artificial?

Also, how will this effect education? This particular robot is supposed to help students learn math, a simulation of a teacher. Since it simulates the teacher, most students probably assume it's correct about everything (after all, at that age teachers are generally pretty solid in the knowledge their passing on to their class, especially when it comes to math) and they probably trust it. However, Projo is "programmed with mistakes" which means students can't trust the answers or hints it gives to them. This must be awfully confusing since right now our society has been taught to trust technology and its superiority over our simple human minds and our plethora of mistakes; technology doesn't make mistakes. Having this robot programmed to make mistakes sometimes makes it that much more human and relatable.

1 comment:

  1. Wow-- so interesting that it is programmed with mistakes to make it more human. Interesting that android technology sees as its ultimate goal to replicate-- rather than to improve upon-- the human. Is this scary, or maybe comforting?


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