Weak and Feeble Robots Make The Best Teachers

The secret to learning from a robot, as discovered by two Japanese researchers, is to have it appear weak and feeble:

Shizuko Matsuzoe and Fumihide Tanaka at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, set up an experiment to find out how different levels of competence in a robot teacher affected children's success in learning English words for shapes.

They observed how 19 children aged between 4 and 8 interacted with a humanoid Nao robot in a learning game in which each child had to draw the shape that corresponded to an English word such as 'circle', 'square', 'crescent', or 'heart'.

The researchers operated the robot from a room next to the classroom so that it appeared weak and feeble, and the children were encouraged to take on the role of carers. [...]

When the robot got a shape wrong, the child could teach the robot how to draw it correctly by guiding its hand. The robot then either "learned" the English word for that shape or continued to make mistakes.

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