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Robots as teachers

As part of the EU funded project EMOTE Arvid Kappas, Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University, conducts research on a new generation of robotic tutors with perceptive capabilities to engage in empathic interactions with learners.

These artificial tutors can serve as a complement to traditional teaching. Overall, the EMOTE project aims to research the role of empathic interventions in the process of facilitating the learning progress. The researchers explore as well if and how the exchange of socio-emotional cues with a tutor can create a sense of connection and social bonding and enhance the learning experience. The three-year long project is funded with 2.9 Million Euros.

Robot Nao

“The last few years have seen a rapid increase in research that is now referred to as affective computing – efforts to create technologies that relate better to humans in that they can sense emotional responses, are sensitive to social situations, and express emotions to users in the shape of computer agents, or embodied robots” says Kappas. “The application of such technologies in schools is particularly important to help, not replace teachers. This is about creating a mix of methods where sometimes all of the children might get individualized tutorials at the same time.”

Significant work has been devoted to the design of artificial tutors with human capabilities with the aim of helping to increase the efficiency achieved with a human instructor. Yet, these systems still lack the personal, empathic and human elements that characterize a traditional teacher and fail to engage and motivate students in the same way a human teacher does.

The EMOTE (EMbOdied-perceptive Tutors for Empathy-based learning) project will design, develop and evaluate a new generation of artificial embodied tutors that have perceptive capabilities to engage in empathic interactions with learners in a shared physical space.

The EMOTE consortium brings together experts to carry out interdisciplinary research on affect recognition, learner models, adaptive behavior and embodiment for human-robot interaction in learning environments, grounded in psychological theories of emotion in social interaction and pedagogical models for learning facilitation.

To ground the research in a concrete classroom scenario, the EMOTE project will develop a showcase in the area of geography, focusing on environmental issues. This will enable tutors to be tested in real world school environments in different European countries.

The team at Jacobs University will focus on the assessment of emotional responses in the laboratory and in the class room. They will also study how nonverbal communication, particularly sounds, can be employed to create empathic bonds between the artificial tutors and children. Arvid Kappas is currently involved in two other projects funded by the EU, namely CYBEREMOTIONS, and eCUTE that bridge psychology on the one hand and computer science and engineering on the other.

EMOTE Partners
University of Birmingham, UK
Jacobs University, Germany
INESC-ID-Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Portugal
Investigacao e Desenvolvimento em Lisboa , Portugal
Heriot-Watt University, UK
University of Gothenburg, Sweden
YDreams Informatica, Portugal
Arvid Kappas | Professor of Psychology
E-Mail: | Phone: +49 421 200-3441
Dennis Küster | Postdoctoral Fellow
E-Mail: | Phone: +49 421 200-3033

Judith Ahues | idw
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