Posts in category About RoboTutor

A General overview of the RoboTutor Project

Nao interacts with Secretary of State Klaas Dijkhoff at the EU Meeting Cyber Security in Amsterdam – 12/13 May 2016


Secretary of State Klaas Dijkhoff opens EU meeting on Cyber Security together with our Nao robot. See here for a video.

Leerlingen in RoboValley worden voorbereid op de toekomst met robots.

‘Ik had nooit gedacht dat robot-onderwijs zo leuk zou zijn!’ Leerlingen van het Stedelijk Gymnasium Schiedam worden voorbereid op de toekomst met robots. Ze worden klaargestoomd voor vervolgonderwijs aan de TU en het bedrijfsleven door nu al onderwijs te volgen over robots. Ze zijn de early adopters en hebben vaak originele ideeën en concepten over wat robots zouden moeten kunnen.

Vrijdag 15 april 2016 kregen derde klassers van het Stedelijk Gymnasium Schiedam hun eerste les van de robotutor Nao. De robot werd begeleid door Koen Hindriks, associate professor van het TU Delft Robotics Institute en Jean-Pierre Nelk, leraar Natuurkunde.

De les begon in opperste stilte, de robotutor introduceerde zichzelf en gaf de groep een les over robots. Wat is een robot? Welke robots zijn er allemaal? Is een stofzuiger een robot of niet? Toen de robot begon te dansen en foto’s van ze maakte barste het tumult los. De “wows!” klonken luid door het klaslokaal.

“De ontwikkelingen op het gebied van robotica zijn in volle gang en het is noodzakelijk om kinderen hier vroeg bij te betrekken. Zij zullen er in de toekomst mee gaan samenwerken” aldus associate professor Koen Hindriks. Natuurkunde leraar Jean-Pierre Nelk voegt toe dat de leerlingen opgroeien in RoboValley en dus over robotica basiskennis moeten beschikken. “En hoe kan dat nu leuker dan door les te krijgen van een robot, en er zelf een te bouwen?” aldus Nelk.

Het doel van de Robotutor is nadrukkelijk niet het vervangen van de leraar, maar het geven van een aanvulling. Op dit moment kan de robot ‘alleen nog’ een verhaal vertellen en korte vragen stellen aan leerlingen. Hindriks wil graag dat de robot een interactieve les kan gaan geven. Hier zijn ze hard mee aan het werk en de input van de leerlingen is zeer belangrijk.
De robotutor is een Nao die met software geprogrammeerd is tot het geven van les. Komende week gaan de leerlingen aan de slag met het programmeren van een eigen robotutor. Daarna gaan ze zelf een robot ontwerpen en bouwen, zodat er over een paar weken 30 robots door de school heen rijden.


Robotutor at iXcamp 2014!



On May 22, the Robotutor travelled to Arnhem for an event entitled “iXcamp 2014 – iXperium / Centre of Expertise Leren met ICT”. Teachers and students from universities, Hogeschool, high-schools, and primary schools showed great interests in the application during a speed-dating with our Robotutor. They were impressed by the natural behavior of the robot and the abilities to using PowerPoint for the lecture. The script-based authoring tool intrigued some teachers, because the development of this tool is tailored for non-programmers such as teachers. One of the teachers improvised a scenario using the authoring tool within just a few minutes, and the audiences were well entertained by her creation. When I introduced our study [1] about expressive coverbal gestures, one of the teachers was excited by the result that positive mood expressed by the robot body language induced positive arousal of students and may facilitate learning. She shouted out “Yes. No arousal no learning!”            —Junchao Xu, Ruud de Jong

[1] Xu JBroekens JDHindriks KNeerincx MAEffects of Bodily Mood Expression of a Robotic Teacher on StudentsProceedings of the 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Chicago, IEEE, 2014. RTF Tagged XML BibTex Google Scholar

The Robotutor System

The Robotutor is an NAO robot from Aldebaran Robotics that has been equipped with special software that enables it to give a presentation to a group of people. The type of presentation is one that most people are familiar with: the robot uses a PowerPoint slideshow and accompanies the slides with spoken text. An important difference however is that the robot can’t (yet) come up with the content of such a presentation. Therefore the software makes use of scripts. These are simple text files which contain the text for the robot to speak and the moments when the next slide is to be shown. Additionally the script can include a number of special commands, which provide interactivity in the presentation. After all, a presenter who just rattles out his text doesn’t really communicate with his audience, whether the presenter is a robot or a human being.

An important element of the interaction is the motion of the robot. The NAO is a humanoid robot with many degrees of freedom, and the Robotutor software uses its capabilities gratefully. There are generally two types of movements the robot can perform. First, there are the ‘big’ movements, such as dancing or doing a soccer kick. This is a good way to show off what the robot can do, but it is really a separate part of the presentation. On the contrary, the second type of movements is supposed to be executed during the regular presentation. These are movements such as hand gestures and looking around the room. The robot is capable of doing this on command, but through the script it is also possible to enable automatic execution of these movements throughout the presentation.

Another important way the robot interacts with its audience is by asking questions. For this purpose the Robotutor software makes use of the Turningpoint system. This system consists of ‘response cards’ that are handed out to the audience. These cards are small electronic devices with a number of buttons. These cards can be used to answer multiple choice questions. In the presentation, the robot will show a slide with a question and asks the audience to respond. The results can then be shown on the screen and the robot will reply accordingly. These are not the only features of the Robotutor, many others are implemented and even more are in development. In fact, extensibility is an important quality of the system. The software is written to support additional commands in the future to enable new ways of interaction. This way the capacity of the Robotutor can be continuously expanded and, based on feedback, developed into a complete educational experience.

The RoboTutor Project

What comes to mind when you think about education? Chances are that it involves an experienced teacher talking to a number of students. For thousands of years, this has been the main way people have been taught intellectual skills. But there are recent developments that might change the way we learn things. Using modern technology, teachers are no longer limited to the people that are physically near. Over the internet a great teacher can reach millions. Innovative people such as Salman Kahn have pioneered in this field, but the educational establishment is not far behind. Many famous names take part in the Open Courseware project, such as MIT, Yale and our own TU Delft.

But while this method of distribution provides the great advantage of scale, it often provides little engagement. A famous piece of Confucian wisdom says: “What I hear I forget, what I do I remember”. This emphasizes how important it is that a student plays an active role during lessons. This requires a level of interaction that cannot always be provided through internet lectures.
A different innovation that could provide a high level of interaction is the robot teacher. Modern humanoid robots are flexible creatures and it is far from unthinkable that robots will someday fulfill the role of teacher in the classroom. The chances of success for the robot as a teacher depend largely on its capability to interact. Saying words is not difficult for a robot; however, telling a story to an audience is.
The Robotutor project explores the issue of robot-classroom interaction in a practical way. Its aim is to develop prototype software that enables a robot to give an engaging presentation to an audience. Based on feedback from the audience the software can be improved and observations can be made about the subject.
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