Would you like a personal teacher? One that does not let you get bored while studying? College Needs Corner found out about a research project at University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is an automated system that detects when online students are distracted or snoozing and then uses tricks to keep them alert.

Adobe

So if you take online courses you might be interested to learn about this robot. The robot can read your mind and keep you focused. It mimics the technique used by human teachers. Would you like to find out how this can be achieved?

The researchers Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir at the University of Wisconsin-Madison started by looking at how learning is done in the real world. They asked themselves a question: “What do human teachers do and how can we draw on that to build an educational robot that achieves something similar?” The pair programmed a Wakamaru humanoid robot to tell students a story in a one-on-one situation and then tested them afterwards to see how much they had remembered.

A Wakamaru robot is being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan. They plan to release it in Japan sometime next year. The robot has a round yellow head and black eyes. It may have either a female or a male voice. Its primary goal for the Japanese market is to provide companionship, mainly for elderly people, like a health-care provider.

The Wakamaru robot at Madison-Wisconsin was programmed to monitor the students engagement levels, using a $200 EEG sensor to monitor the FP1 area of the brain, which manages learning and concentration. When a significant decrease in certain brain signals indicated that the student’s attention level had fallen, the system sent a signal to the robot to trigger a cue. Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp. The FP1 area of the brain roughly corresponds to the left frontal and prefrontal cortex regions. This region of the brain is involved in many areas of cognition, including short term memory storage and executive function.

In one experiment at Madison-Wisconsin, the robot teacher first told a short story about the animals that make up the Chinese zodiac, in order to get a baseline EEG reading. Next, the robot told a longer 10-minute story based on a little-known Japanese folk tale called My Lord Bag of Rice, which the student was unlikely to have heard before.

During this 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. Two other groups were tested but the robot either gave no cues, or sprinkled them randomly throughout the storytelling. Afterwards, the students were asked a few questions about the Chinese zodiac to distract them before being asked a series of questions about the folk tale.

As the team had expected, the students who were given a cue by the robot when their attention was waning were much better at recalling the story than the other two groups, answering an average of 9 out of 14 questions correctly, as compared with just 6.3 when the robot gave no cues at all.

VioSoftware.com

The researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison expect to make one-on-one tutoring possible for every student.

This blog post contains excerpts from the article “Mind-reading robot teachers keep students focused” published by Niall Firth in the NewScientist.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!