The Robotic Teaching Assistant

Robots and Teachers and Students...

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As the 21st century moves on, consumer grade, pre-built anthropomorphic robots designed to complete human-like tasks are becoming more common. For instance, Nao (pronounced now) is an autonomous, programmable humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French company headquartered in Paris. Nao robots have been used for research and education purposes in numerous academic institutions worldwide and, as of 2015, over 7,000 Nao units are in use in more than 50 countries, according to Aldebaran.

Whilst many projects with Nao are conducted locally, the field of Cloud Robotics is growing and could be applied to Nao (and eventually to other robots) for robotic assistance purposes. Cloud computing technologies enable robot systems to be endowed with powerful capability whilst reducing costs by offloading processing to computers in the cloud. Humans can also delegate tasks to robots remotely through networks, and Artificial Intelligence in the cloud can be applied to enhance the autonomous actions of the robot. This provides an excellent platform to develop a cloud-driven, autonomous robotic assistance model applicable in a variety of different areas.

One option is that robotics be taught as part of the curriculum, but what if robotics could be used more directly to support teaching activities in the classroom? Specifically, what if a robot could be used to provide direct assistance to the teacher, serving as both a proxy for students as well as a teachers aide? 

This research project looks to answer these research questions and other questions relating to the use of a robot as a semi-autonomous robotic assistant driven by a cloud infrastructure. To test this, the robot will be used as a teaching assistant in the classroom, delivering lectures, answering student questions and conducting pop quizzes. Work is ongoing in this area, with usability testing having been conducted.

If you would like to discuss this project in the lab, please contact Dr Michael Cowling via the contacts page on this site.