Social Robots To Help Preschoolers In Singapore

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is currently exploring ways in which they can use robots in pre-schools. Robots have been used for pilot studies but could soon play a bigger role in teaching preschoolers. In future, robots are expected to take up the roles and responsibilities of teachers and teach students in a more fun and efficient manner.

The pilot studies that are currently being conducted in Singapore by the IDA are a closely monitored procedure. People are trying to understand the impact of using social robots for collaborative play and interactive story telling.

These preschools in Singapore, My First Skool and MY World, are collaborating with the IDA and Nanyang Technological University for the pilot study.

Pepper and NAO

Two humanoid robots – Pepper and NAO – have started interacting with preschoolers and are helping them in fun and interactive ways. The six-month trial is an experiment to see whether social robots can take up more serious roles in the future or not. Pepper is a 1.2m robot and has a touchscreen on its chest. Pepper is put up at My First Skool in Jurong Point and has been reading stories to interact with children. NAO is smaller than Pepper and has been put up at MY World in Bukit Panjang. NAO takes a step further by dancing along with story-telling.

Teachers in the two preschools in Singapore have found that with the robots around, kids are interacting more. They love the touchscreen on Pepper and adore its voice. The sight of the robots too has made it easier for the kids to interact with them. However, teachers still want to see how differently-abled children would interact with the robots.

As teachers work with researchers and collaborators from the IDA and the Nanyang Technological University, developers keep developing new lesson plans for the preschoolers.

The impact of robots on preschoolers

Up till now, the results of the pilot study have been amazing. Kids are showing great response towards the robots and together they are exploring many things through play. One of the best parts of using robots as preschool teachers is that they will never lose their temper, which can be common while handling naughty kids. Overall, it seems that IDA would want to take the next step as far as the results of the pilot study are concerned. It will be interesting to see how these robots handle tougher responsibilities.

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