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Robotics Education Hardware

Teaching With Robots 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-get-this-problem-wrong-bender-will-attack dept.
theodp writes "If you're a math, CS, or engineering grad, odds are you've seen your share of robot-like teaching — but never an actual robot teacher. Now, that's starting to change. Computer scientists are developing robots with social components that can engage people and teach them simple skills, including household tasks, vocabulary, elementary imitation and taking turns. Several countries have been testing teaching machines in classrooms. At USC, researchers have had their robot, Bandit, interact with autistic children. South Korea is 'hiring' hundreds of robots as teacher aides and classroom playmates and is experimenting with robots that would teach English."
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Teaching With Robots

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  • by Viol8 (599362) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @12:14PM (#32867102)

    I realise there seems to be a rather unhealthy obsession with robots in japan and korea but this is just going too far. You want some clunky pre-programmed robot to pander to your whims and stroke your ego - fine. But don't try the same shit with kids - its not fair. Get someone in to look after these children. If they're autistic they NEED to interact with people, not a glorified PC FFS.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 11, 2010 @12:21PM (#32867162)

      I'm autistic, and I can tell you the last thing autistic kids need teaching them how to act neurotypical is a robot mentor.

      The dirty secret of Autism Speaks and just about everything else (such as the developers of these robots) is that they advocate for exhausted parents, annoyed relatives, and the profit motive of Western medicine; they don't do anything for actual autistic people.

      www.autistics.org [autistics.org]

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        horses work [narha.org]
        dogs work [askdebaboutautism.com]
        cats work [about.com]

        There are millions of animals that need a home - but that won't get research grants, and animals are "messy, disruptive, don't want them in a school or work environment".

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You're missing the point, which is that autistic kids desperately need to learn the essential life skills of neurotypical small talk, gossip, mindless conformity, and tolerance of the harassment that "teasing" is - all things neurotypicals take for granted. You're suggesting I could have learned these things from a horse?

          Also, for neurotypical parents and teachers, what "works" is what makes the child docile and compliant, not what actually produces happy, growing kids. Along those lines, ritalin (a metha

          • Also, for neurotypical parents and teachers, what "works" is what makes the child docile and compliant, not what actually produces happy, growing kids. Along those lines, ritalin (a methamphetamine derivative) "works" too. I will never forgive my parents, teachers, and childhood doctor for 20mg of meth a day for 2 years. It did just about what you'd expect.

            To quote Henry Rollins - "Fuuuuuuuuck!"

            Your parents were more than likely following the advice of the "experts" - doctor and teachers (*snicker*). Even if you're as young as 18, there wasn't the huge outcry over medicating children like there is now. And there wasn't the internet to do some sort of research.

            I'm assuming your parents weren't medical professionals. If they were, then your disgust is well placed.

            You can be a wonderful advocate for kids with autism and all the other kids that are being drugge

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            You're missing the point, which is that autistic kids desperately need to learn the essential life skills of neurotypical small talk, gossip, mindless conformity, and tolerance of the harassment that "teasing" is - all things neurotypicals take for granted. You're suggesting I could have learned these things from a horse?

            Read the links. It works.

            You'd be surprised what animals can teach us about human behaviour, as well as the skills they can help us acquire.

            Even "neurotypicals" (to use your term) can

          • Friend of mine's autistic daughter learned a lot from horses.

            No idea why it worked better than humans. I'm not autistic.

            Perhaps it doesn't work for you or your child but it worked for her.

    • You need machine foster parents for what is, probably, the only plausible way of getting our asses out of this system, assuming technology that seems to be certainly within our range - embryo colonization [wikipedia.org].

      (yes, hibernation of a skeleton crew / very small group of initial settlers, with the main purpose of kickstarting the colony and the growth of stored embryos, might be close enough)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blahplusplus (757119)

      "Kids need people, not robots"

      Going by apathy and inherent degeneracy of of many people today... most people are robots in one way or another - robots of ideology, political robots, robots of all types in society. Human beings are just "robots" made of meat. That may sound insulting but consider how poor most human thinking is on the whole and how long we've taken to even have progress in the most basic tasks of getting along with one another.

      Quite frankly human beings over-estimate their importance in th

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "human beings have had millions of years to solve some of the most basic of problems that many of the good nerds(tm) on slashdot know of of not being prejudiced towards others and understanding the importance of subconscious biological processes that determine peoples fates, what they can perceive and even think about."

        That this was not done argues no evolutionary pressure to do it.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Going by apathy and inherent degeneracy of of many people today... most people are robots in one way or another - robots of ideology, political robots, robots of all types in society. Human beings are just "robots" made of meat.

        Which, while strictly speaking true of all imaginable beings, is also completely irrelevant for that very reason. The relevant question is: Can we build robots smart enough to take care of and monitor children?

        That may sound insulting but consider how poor most human thinking is on

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      I'm sure the teacher's unions will bring some bullshit like this up.

      At every opportunity, the educators I work with chose to plug kids into technology and set them on auto-teach. Sewing the seeds of their own destruction...but when tech starts to replace teachers, we'll hear them scream bloody murder with your argument.

  • I know researchers are doing their best but am I the only one who's really impatient for robots to begin integrating into society on a large scale? All we have so far outside of more progressive factories is a few tens of lab robots, floor cleaners, and lawn mowers. where's my robot maid dammit? why aren't robots fully integrated into the McDonald's supply chain reducing the price of my burger to 50 cents? Where are the road laying robots? where's my robochauffeur?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      With unemployment as high as it is, you want to replace all remaining human occupied jobs with robots? What is wrong with you.

      • Perhaps the poster is still reeling from this YouTube video [adage.com]...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jurily (900488)

        With unemployment as high as it is, you want to replace all remaining human occupied jobs with robots? What is wrong with you.

        Maybe we could rethink society [wikipedia.org] so we don't have to do things machines could, and still not starve.

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by Viol8 (599362)

          People need more than just food and water. If you don't understand that then theres no hope for you.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Maybe we could rethink society so we don't have to do things machines could, and still not starve.

          Yes, but such suggestions [marshallbrain.com] would mean that the rich could no longer lord it over the poor, and thus are a form of communism, and thus are evil. Why do you hate freedom so much?

          • by Jurily (900488)

            Interesting link, but that article is more communist than smart. If I work my whole life to gather stuff for my family and am successful at it, what gives "Us, The People" the right to take those away when I die?

            This proposal, as implemented, would only leave boredom as a motivator to do anything. Profit would certainly not be involved.

            • by ultranova (717540)

              Interesting link, but that article is more communist than smart. If I work my whole life to gather stuff for my family and am successful at it, what gives "Us, The People" the right to take those away when I die?

              My point exactly. Any attempt to counteract wealth concentration is by necessity taking stuff away from the haves, and not doing so means that the have-nots are screwed. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

              This proposal, as implemented, would only leave boredom as a motivator to do anything. Prof

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Iamthecheese (1264298)
        As an unemployed person I tell you that nothing is wrong with me. If giving a society free labor is doing it an injury then something is wrong. Don't bring up anticompetitive dumping, that's only harmful because the agent doing the dumping will raise prices in time. And don't bring up cheap food in Africa, that's only harmful because Africa should be creating its own food and the gifts are not sustainable. If people are unemployed because of robots that means robots are producing all that hose people need
        • I have a thought. Please allow me to bounce it off of you. You said: "Unless you think that not working is inherently wrong, bad for a person, bad for society..."

          What happens now when a psychologically normal person doesn't have to work? When everything is provided for him or her. Does that person function well? What happens when a child is raised that way? What education would be needed in that environment?

          Please note, I am not saying the system or 'working for the man' is ideal, but what would hap

          • Greater men than me have failed to answer that question but I'm arrogant enough to give it a try anyway.

            In ancient Rome [wikipedia.org] slaves provided for Roman citizens such that there was a large group of people who didn't have to work at all. Everything they wanted was given to them. They spent their time at theaters, bath houses, and feeding each other. Some turned to philosophy, some to learning, many to simply wasting their lives away in whatever they liked to do.

            In today's UK [blogspot.com] there are many people living on the p
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Do you want to play a game?

      > List games
      Falken's Maze
      Checkers
      Chess
      Blackjack
      Poker
      Theaterwide Biotoxic Warfare
      Chemical Warfare
      Global Thermonuclear War
      > Fetch me a beer
      I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you have that.
      > Fetch me a beer, dammit!
      I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.
      > For the last time, fetch me a beer!
      I'm sorry Dave, you are obviously defective, and will be recycled for parts. Have a nice day.

    • Or at least in a tiny minority. Perhaps the fact that you seem to want to be around robots instead of people says more about you than you might like.

    • why aren't robots fully integrated into the McDonald's supply chain reducing the price of my burger to 50 cents?

      Depending on the exchange rate and burger type, that's already the price of burger in some countries.

  • by Enleth (947766) <enleth@enleth.com> on Sunday July 11, 2010 @12:20PM (#32867152) Homepage

    It's an European research project that studies social interactions of robots and people, and attempts to get around the uncanny valley [wikipedia.org], among other things. They already have some quite interesting results, although I can't really elaborate on their scientific side, social robots being outside of my field of interest.

    Disclaimer: I know a few LIREC members personally.

  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Sunday July 11, 2010 @12:27PM (#32867214) Journal

    If the robotic teaching of basic skills becomes commonplace it will be at the expense of human interaction.

    We already have too many people who are dysfunctional in society and lacking in the basic human skills of communications, emotions and compassion. I do not see this as much of an advancement, it is just a means of reducing the "human" component of our educational system.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "If the robotic teaching of basic skills becomes commonplace it will be at the expense of human interaction."

      That's not all bad, since human interaction isn't all good by a longshot. More a question of implementation than principle, and robots could be harder to manipulate or overwhelm than a human teacher. A worthy goal, since we need perfected robots.

      A lot of human interaction is toxic, and builds the Hellmouth. Learning isn't necessarily "better" with a group. Many people, self included, were dragged dow

    • one more thing to be said:
      some time ago there was a great debate about a muslim teacher getting fired because she hid her face from her students.

      why would anyone want to replace human teachers with robots? they can't even say it's because of the money.

    • If the robotic teaching of basic skills becomes commonplace it will be at the expense of human interaction.

      We already have too many people who are dysfunctional in society and lacking in the basic human skills of communications, emotions and compassion. I do not see this as much of an advancement, it is just a means of reducing the "human" component of our educational system.

      You're looking at this in a very short-sighted manner. An automated teaching system can also be programmed to teach both *in* a human manner and correct antisocial behavior.

      Imagine that any system or process can be automated if enough time or energy (money) is thrown at it. You could essentially match one Automated Educator per pupil, as opposed to today where you have one teacher for 30 pupils. Which one encourages the better development of social skills.

      In a class with 30 people, the teacher doesn't h

  • I see this as mainly a friendlier interface to the age-old practice of computer drills. Modern technology allows you do more than the multiple choice question of olden days. It can interact via natural language (currently primitively).
  • Robots are neat and useful and all, but . . . come on, raising kids is arguably the most important work we do (yeah, I know, that doesn't exactly square with how we treat the people who already raise the kids, but I believe that's a separate argument). Young primates are supposed to learn how to be functional older primates from other older primates, that's just the way we work. Kids crave attention from people they look up to, and attention from the robots is not a replacement for that.

    There are som
    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      I suspect you didn't RTFAs, since one covers the issue of not catching (and then catching) an infant's attention.

  • So, these robots require copious amounts of High Fructose Corn Syrup and bottomless credit cards to function?

    Oh, oh... oohhhh... English! Gotcha!

  • "... and is experimenting with robots that would teach English." How is a robot going to teach English to children, when google voice is lucky to get half the words correct in a message from a native English speaker?
    • A robot can be more engaging than a video, and in some cases even a human lecturer; and a robot need not necessarily be able to understand language to provide some valuable interactivity.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The issue of robot teachers has been a topic of discussion for a long while here in Korea. Korean culture tends to be . . . xenophobic (let's not call them racists) and the media runs a lot of scaremongering about the pernicious effects of Native Speaking English Teachers, who come to Korea to get drunk, molest the children and make off with the womenfolk. While there are always a few bad apples in any group, crime rates among foreigners are proportionately much lower than among native Koreans, but anyth

  • And where are the engineers learning social skills in order to to program said skills into robots?

    /sorry, too easy..
  • The day is coming when a mechanical surrogate may come to the door. Very much like Ray Bradbury's, "I Sing the Body Electric" [unl.edu]. But the day in which Asimov's 3 Laws [wikipedia.org] is a long way off. Robots have one thing that Man has always coveted, "The Concurring of Time". It will take about 40 years to see how Robots can teach children. Some will fail, some will succeed. But the both groups can offer to each other what the other desires most.
  • Hello. I DRTFA and barely RTFS, but none the less I came up with this:

    This is not that new. Behaviourists thought that people could be programmed like Pavlovs dogs, but they were wrong, generally speaking. Behaviourism (getting stars etc for good behaviour) is, however, often, a last and successful resource when it comes to autistic people. So why not have robots or computers dispersing the behavourism. You know Skinner thought machines that asked questions and gave rewards was good for kids in general (and

  • simpsons did it! or at least they had the idea to use them to end a strike.

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