How the Physical Designs of Robots Affect Learning

Educational robots are becoming increasingly popular as studies show their widespread benefits for child-development indicators such as language skills, cognitive, social, robotic, and programming. At the same time, we are learning more about how the physical design of such robots can also impact learning.

When looking at educational robots that are currently on the market, like Roybi Robot, you will notice some features that slightly, or in some cases dramatically, resemble human features. What might seem like a minor detail can in reality have a major effect on child learning and teaching.

Studies on Robots with Human Features and Child Learning

There have been various studies done on the use of robots with facial features of humans for child learning, and the results are interesting, but not surprising. 

When a robot has human-like features, children are more likely to treat it as a social person, and it has even proved in some cases to raise concentration levels. When placed inside classrooms, children became more motivated and exhibited positive attitudes. 

Paired with the robot’s design are social behaviors, and these two together can have a massive impact. With social behaviors like greeting, encouragement, sympathy, stimulation, and vocal communication, the robot can act as a companion and a learning/managing tool, which are oftentimes strongly linked together. Human-like social signals often lead to more engagement when present in educational robots.

In the specific case of language learning, one comparative study found that children strongly preferred learning with a robot that more resembled a person than a tablet. 

Another study found that these types of educational robots result in significantly better outcomes compared to other learning programs when used at home. Much of this has to do with the fact that these behaviors appear more natural and lead to more engagement.

Classroom Use

The use of these educational robots could be extremely useful in public schools, where student enrollment is increasing at a rate that is difficult for teachers to keep up with. Modern education requires interaction with students, which is nearly impossible in today’s current system. For example, a language class where there are 30 students and only one teacher, which is common in many schools, would mean that the teacher can have a one-on-one conversation with each student for just a few seconds.

Digital learning tools can help solve this problem, and while many different devices could be used to achieve this goal, the design of a robot provides new and more effective opportunities. If the robot has some humanoid features and behaviors, it would result in more physical interaction. In the case of a foreign language class, these educational robots could assist the teacher by having conversations with the students, even in between lessons. 

One study was done on the effect that a humanoid robot had when teaching a second language to the students of an elementary school, and it demonstrated that students enjoyed the learning process and believed it was more effective than other methods.

Roybi Robot

Roybi Robot Green Front

Roybi Robot fits right into many of these categories when it comes to teaching and learning. While helping children develop skills in language learning and basic STEM, the AI-powered educational robot provides emotional and learning support for children aged three and up. 

By demonstrating many of the behaviors discussed in the studies, Roybi Robot keeps children engaged while adapting to each user’s individual needs. Interaction, personalization, and social behaviors are some of the most important aspects of an educational robot for it to be successful, and Roybi Robot contains each one. 

From the very beginning, one of the main objectives of creating Roybi Robot’s physical features was to avoid a humanoid design. The thinking behind this approach was to create a companion robot devoid of facial expressions so it can provide non-judgmental interactions with a child that can lead to a more impactful experience. We find children at ease with Roybi Robot because it doesn’t impersonate a human but rather presents itself honestly as a robot who wants to form a friendship that can lead to learning through stories, songs, and play.

Additionally, the small size of the Roybi Robot allows the child to hold it in hands and interacts with it at a close distance. This close physical interaction with the robot alongside the friendly and interactive lessons can lead to a stronger relationship between Roybi Robot and the user, allowing the robot to point out strengths while addressing weaknesses in a child’s learning process. If you were to go back in time before the existence of educational robots, these skill sets would indicate an effective human teacher. Now, AI-inspired robots like Roybi Robot can move far beyond this while being extremely effective, providing us with the opportunity to drastically change early learning for the better.

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J.K. Westlund et al., A comparison of children learning new words from robots, tablets, & people, in Proceedings of New Friends: The 1st International Conference on Social Robots in Therapy and Education, 2015

Kanda, M. Shimada, S. Koizumi, Children learning with a social robot, in Proceedings of the Seventh Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI ‘12) (ACM, New York, 2012), pp. 351–358.