Humanoid Robots as Teaching Assistants…

If you speak to most of the people on this high street about Artifical Inteligence, the first thing they think about is a robot saying hello or maybe giving smarter replies or performing some mechanical task. There a numerous use cases of AI and robots that resemble humans are just one of them – Humanoids!

If you Google around, you will see that the term Humanoid came into existense way back in 1870s when Europeans colonized areas and started referring to indigenous people as Humaoids. The term evolved and started to be used to describe fossils wsimilar to human skeleton. Humanoid Robots is a term that became popular aorund 1960s thanks to movies and the development of real humanoid robots started decades ago, however they were restricted to labs in most cases. A humanoid robot as the term suggests is designed to look exactly like a human body with some clear features like sensors to aid them in sensing the surrounding environment, cameras to aid them in seeing clearly, actuators to aid them in moving and gestures, to name a few.

Most of us have heard of ASIMO, Pepper, Atlas etc as some of the most popular humanoid robots around. However, a challenge is that building humanoid robots that can be useful and perform useful tasks/activities in the real world (not just labs) hasn’t had lot of traction until 2010s.

Once a trend takes of, it does take off. Now we see some very useful use cases of Humanoid robots, primarily in the public places – like a interactive receptionist in offices, interactive robot across airports, hospitals and banks. Most of these use cases are focussed on showcasing the technology and early adoption, with very basic use cases that can be performed using standard desktop/laptops/tablets. I have seen numarous use cases of Pepper robot across restaurants and retail stores that provides an opportunity to customers to use the touch screen to check out menus, offers, etc.

We need to look for better use cases that can go beyond – just a good to have. Use case understanding and personalization are key to the effective deployment of social robots in real-world settings. Socially assistive humanoid robot that can facilitate an effective interaction with their human users for the purpose of assisting them at the social and cognitive level are going to be good starting points – rather than just looking at implementations around defense, manufacturing units etc or replacement as a standard interactive screen. We know some of the advanced humanoid robots like Atlas can jump onto boxes and do backflips.

As part of such an initiative, one of the key use cases that I have had the opportunity to be involved in is with an Indian Startup. We have been working on Humanoid Robot as a Teaching Assitant, that is a use case of scoially assistive humanoid robot. There were numerous use cases that we had debated that can help create a positive impact on the Indian Education Sector and during one of such debates we realised Indian education system is suffering from lack of enough qualified teachers. Hence, the focus on Humanoid Robot based Teaching Assitant – some of the key benefits that we envisaged were – faster time to deployment, consistent teaching experience, shorter learning curve and longer (inifinte) retention of knowledge, automation to reduce effort spent by teachers on mundane activities, integrations with numerous educational and research organizations to take the use cases further.

We need more such uses cases of socially assistive humanoid robots, that can make a impact to a larger group of people and societies.

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