The children learn from RUBI and play with QRIO. However, they are not your normal teachers and playmates. RUBU, Robot Using Bayesian Inference, and QRIO, whose names stands for Quest for Curiosity, are developing robots created by the Machine Perception Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Sony Corporation respectively. Meant as a research platform for the advancement in the field of real-time, social robotics and uses of interactive computers in educational environments, they are attending the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) Classroom 1 at UCSD as part of a long-term research study.
Soft, warm and pleasantly plump RUBI, has 2 cameras for eyes and a third omni-directional camera for peripheral vision. In addition to 5 high-powered CPUs in her body, she learns by communicating through an antenna on her back with another 24 CPUs. RUBI is able to track heads and detect faces and basic expressions and as the assistant teacher, teaches the children songs, colours, shapes and other materials through her touch-screen belly.
Bipedal QRIO with its state-of-the art autonomous abilities, acts as the peer by dancing in response to humans and engaging the children in play and exercise activities during each hour long activity with the 10 to 24-month old children.
While the researchers are paving for future technical challenges, Lydia Morrison, the lead teacher of Classroom 1, says that RUBI and QRIO have become valuable members of the class. "It's an enriching experience for both the children and the teachers," Morrison said. "We need tools, we need teaching aids in the classroom. RUBI and QRIO could become real helpers one day. And for now, they are doing something just as important -- they are helping us imagine new ways of teaching. The experience is also fun. Tickling RUBI's sensitive TV belly so she giggles produces laughs from the people too. And, each time QRIO lays down on the floor at the end of a session for system shutdown, it draws a small crowd and a queue forms to cover him with a blanket and wish him "night-night."
U036095H Ng Zhihong