KOCHI: When we are living in a technological driven era, where anything and everything is possible. Even if it is something that occurs in the wildest of our dreams. Our schools have changed a lot from the thatched roof and grim looking blackboards to smart classes which are enabled with digital technology having smart boards and projectors to learn and enjoy.
But one thing that never changes are our teachers who are the treasure trove of knowledge and who pull us up when we are slacking. But has anyone imagined a time in the future when even the teachers would not be required? This might seem odd to hear but yes, it is true. The robotic teacher is one step ahead compared to human teachers. While sitting at boring lectures, it is a common happening that we often doze off in the class without getting caught by our teachers.
But the Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir of the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have programmed a robotic teacher that could tell when students lose focus and also helps them to re-engage with the lessons. The duo had programmed their Wakamaru humanoid robot in such a way that it applies the techniques adopted by human teachers.
The robot has an automated system that detects when the eyes of the students are distracted or when they are snoozing and then uses tricks to keep them alert by way of telling stories and using human like gestures. Now most of the countries have started the intelligent tutoring systems that use virtual teachers to interact with students. So this type of a innovation will play a significant role in the education sector.
Tests were conducted using the robot in a classroom where it told a story in a one-on-one situation. Students were then tested on how much they remembered in the robot’s classes. The engagement levels were monitored using a $200 EEG sensor to monitor the FP1 area of the brain. A significant decrease in certain brain signals indicated that the student’s attention level had fallen, and the system sent a signal to the robot to trigger a cue. That is uniqueness of this humanoid.
The robot teacher first told a short story about the animals that make up the Chinese zodiac, next, the robot told a longer 10-minute story based on a little-known Japanese folk tale called My Lord Bag of Rice. In between, the story the robot raised its voice or used arm gestures to regain the student’s attention if the EEG levels dipped. These included pointing at itself or towards the listener - or using its arms to indicate a high mountain, for example. The students who sat for the test-run of the robot were also shot with questions about the stories earlier told in the class.
It was surprising to find that the group of children who were given a cue by the robot when their attention was waning fared well in recalling the story. The results were submitted at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Austin, Texas, earlier this month. The duo who made this innovative humanoid teacher have showed that it is not far when robots will be teaching humans.