The Emergence of Robotics in Education

The use of robots to educate children may sound futuristic, but it isn’t. Robots are used in education today. There’s a special robot, the Vgo, that can help children too sick to attend class physically to still attend virtually. The child can stay at home, but through the robot’s eyes, still see his classroom, teacher and friends, and participate in the classroom environment in a meaningful way. The child keeps up with his lessons and doesn’t have to forgo the socialization he or she normally gets by attending school with his or her peers.

Vgo is pricey; around $6,000, so it’s not an option for everyone. But there is a robot kit called PiBot that sells for only $99. PiBot, intended for middle and high-school age children, lets kids build and program their own robot.

For kids with autism, there is a special educational robot called Nao. Children with autism don’t process facial expressions and verbal inflections very well. They become confused, and the confusion can lead to frustration and further learning difficulties. Robots like the Nao can interact with children without the confusing human facial expressions, allowing autistic kids to learn their lessons easier. Robots teach young children about animals, colors and numbers. Older kids can learn reading skills from robots like Nao, which provide appropriate feedback to the child. Price tag is high: over $8,000, so only a few special education schools have an Nao robot, but prices are falling, so more schools may have them in the future.

There is nothing science fictional about robots in education today. They are a useful adjunct to the educational toolbox and they are here to stay.