In Brief

The Wakamaru humanoid robot monitors students’ attention levels and keeps them focused, which could be especially useful for online instruction.

Researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that a robotic teacher monitoring students’ attention levels and keeping them alert could be good for classes. It could be especially useful for online instruction, where it is usually impossible to know whether students are engaged and concentrating.

Bilge Mutlu and Dan Szafir programmed a Wakamaru humanoid robot to mimic the techniques that human teachers use to make sure their students are focused and not snoozing, and it was found to boost how much they remembered from their lessons. New Scientist reports that the robot told students a story and then tested them afterwards to see what they remembered. Engagement levels were monitored using an EEG sensor and 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 raise its voice or use arm gestures to regain their attention.

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