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Robot Companions Could Affect Children's Mood and Development, Scientists Reveal

Mar 08, 2017 05:08 AM EST
Robot Companions Actually Affect Moods of Children, Scientists Say
A recent study reveals that the personality of a robot companion could actually influence the development growth of children.
(Photo : Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

There will come a time when artificial intelligence will walk side by side with humans -- not as overlords, but as friends. A recent study reveals that the personality of a robot companion could actually influence the development growth of children.

According to New Scientist, researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel have conducted an experiment where Tega, a companion robot, is assigned to "help" children during their playtime. Interestingly, each children assigned to Tega has a different set of responses.

Goren Gorden, a team member of the research, said they want to check if the "behavior" of the robot can influence the children. Results show that Tega had subtle behavior changes while children showed quite the response.

The researchers made Tega play puzzles against 40 children. The robot companion showed a neutral personality for around 50 percent of the child respondents. If it won, it just says neutral things like "I solved the puzzle."

However, to the other half, Tega showed a can-do attitude. If it won, it says, "I tried hard and nailed it!" and when it lost, "You worked hard and succeeded!"

Tega's can-do attitude had much more impact to the second group of children. According to New Scientist, they were in fact more determined to win when they lose. Hae Won Park from MIT, the lead author of the study, said children had "grit" and actually did more attempts to solve the puzzle at the face of a competitive enemy.

Another test had Tega engage in storytelling with children. They found out that children were more attentive to Tega when the Robot was "engaged" with a story.

A storyteller would be telling stories to children that were accompanied by two Tega robots. One would look "attentive" when the storyteller told high notes of the story. The other had a normal reaction. Children actually wanted to pay attention to the "attentive" Tega than the other one.

Liz Pellicano from London's Institute for Education explained that this is a good sign because children appreciate storytelling. She warned, however, that children learn by different paces, so it is important to differentiate what method works best for each child.

The researchers hope that Tega units will be useful as a companion both at home and in the classroom, especially as a positive influence to the child.

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