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Robot Learning Companion Offers Custom-Tailored Tutoring

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child playing with Tega robot

A child plays an interactive language learning game with Tega, a socially assistive robot.

Credit: MIT Media Lab

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a socially assistive robot that can serve as a one-to-one peer for learning in the classroom or for play. The researchers say Tega robot is unique in that it can interpret emotional responses and create a personalized motivational strategy based on those emotional cues. Developed for long-term interactions with children, the furry, brightly colored robot uses an Android device to process movement, perception, and thinking, and responds appropriately to behaviors. A second Android phone containing software developed by Affectiva enables Tega to interpret the emotional content of facial expressions.

The researchers tested Tega in a Boston preschool classroom last year and the system showed it can learn and improve itself in response to the unique characteristics of students. "What is so fascinating is that children appear to interact with Tega as a peer-like companion in a way that opens up new opportunities to develop next-generation learning technologies that not only address the cognitive aspects of learning, like learning vocabulary, but the social and affective aspects of learning as well," says MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal.

The work was supported by a five-year, $10-million Expeditions in Computing award from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

From U.S. National Science Foundation
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