New interactive robot can be your kid’s reading buddy

New York: A new interactive robot, programmed to be an interested listener, may serve as a reading companion for your kid, a new study suggests.

The new robot named “Minnie” can react, cajole and appear thoughtful, said the researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, who have developed the robot.

For the study, the research team designed a two-week reading programme including 25 books representing a range of reading skills and story complexities.

According to the team, the children grew more excited about books and more attached to the robot over two weeks of reading together.

“After one interaction, the kids were generally telling us that, sure, it was nice to have someone to read with,” said co-author Joseph Michaelis from the varsity.

“But by the end of two weeks, they were talking about how the robot was funny and silly and afraid, and how they’d come home looking forward to seeing it again,” he added.

The number of children who told the robot has a personality or emotions increased more than four-fold over the two weeks they spent with the robot, the researchers said.

The number reporting they were motivated to read also spiked — and surpassed a control group following a paper-based version of the reading programme. And kids who read with the robot said they felt like they understood and remembered more about the shared books, they added.

Social learning — pairing up with a peer to complete math problems or read a chapter in a textbook — is a powerful way to help students develop skills and interests, suggests the findings published in the journal Science Robotics.

“This robot supports an engaging reading activity, but it’s not a social companion to the extent that you could have an open conversation with it. If you had a much more capable robot, that picture might change,” co-author Bilge Mutlu, Professor at the varsity noted.

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