Quebec Robot Nao Helps Students With Learning Difficulties

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Meet the cutest teacher’s assistant, Nao the robot that even held his own news conference in Montreal on 3 May. He talked about his accomplishments in helping students with autism spectrum disorder and those that had learning difficulties.

Nao has visited elementary and secondary schools in Quebec for the last years to interact with his students. He can interact with humans using cameras, sensors, and microphones to see and hear around him. He is only 28 centimeters tall and he uses AI technology. Nao is a humanoid, as it can immediately answer questions and even recognize human emotions.

It all started with an idea of a professor at the Université de Montréal. He is Prof. Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair in Technologies in Education. Karsenti asked students to program Nao with different levels of difficulty so that it can help a wide range of students.

The Beginning of a Successful Learning Technique

Last year, Prof. Thierry Karsenti tested Nao in different schools. He said that:

“Kids were so engaged, just because the robot was there. They were coming to school on ped days. They were staying at school, after school, until 5 p.m.”

There, Karsenti taught students to program Nao to sing, play soccer and dance. After his project in 2017, Karsenti explained that the next step was to help students with autism to do well in school and even excel. He took Nao to the CFER de Bellechasse in Saint-Raphaël-de-Bellechasse (a school only for children with special needs).

Karsenti saw that Nao was a success. Teacher Diana Osorio was impressed to see that the children immediately responded to the new ‘assistant teacher’:

“Kids who never who never talk in class, who never look at their teacher in the eye.. they looked at the robot. They talked to the robot. They really empathize with the robot. I felt it was cute, immediately when I saw it. It’s weird to feel that way when you see a machine. And I can see why kids, especially kids with autism feel attracted.”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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