The 'dunce robots' of Japan will help children learn

The 25-inch Nao robot was found to increase preschool kids' spontaneous learning.

Story highlights

  • Care-receiving robots require human attention and aid
  • Social robots use natural social cues like gestures, tone of voice or eye movements to convey meaning

(CNN)For many people, the future inspires nightmare visions of a "robopocalypse," a time when humans become subjugated by their own creations: robot overlords that possess superior physical and intellectual prowess.

One Japanese researcher, however, has designed a robot that instills the opposite image of our future, particularly in the minds of the children who use them.
Fumihide Tanaka's educational robots do not perform the role of an all-knowing teacher. Instead, they are built to help young students study English vocabulary and serve as classroom dunces who commonly make mistakes -- mistakes that a helpful student can correct.
Nao, a robot from Softbanks Robotics, can be programmed to work as an educational tool for children.
By teaching a less intelligent robot, children reinforce their own learning and so become stronger students themselves, Tanaka believes, and research supports this.