July 23 2014

Raising Children Better with Robot “Companions”

Vicki E. Alger

You thought talking shopping carts were bad. The Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harris reports that the federal government is developing robots it hopes to send to homes and schools to teach children to speak English and eat their vegetables:

The National Science Foundation has committed $10 million to build robots that will act as “personal trainers” for children, in an effort to influence their behavior and eating habits.

The government has spent $2.15 million so far for the five-year project, which is being led by Yale University. The project, “Robots Helping Kids,” will ultimately “deploy” robots into homes and schools to teach English as a second language, and encourage kids to exercise. …

At the end of five years we’d like to have robots that can guide a child toward long-term educational goals, be customized for the particular needs of that child, and basically grow and develop with the child,” [Brian Scassellati, a computer science professor at Yale and principal investigator for the study] said. “We want the robot to be the equivalent of a good personal trainer.”

The NSF has allotted $10 million for the study through 2017. The grant is one of the highest amounts the agency dispenses.

But don’t worry! No one wants to replace parents with robots. Instead, robots will simply “provide additional attention and guidance for children.” Besides the government’s a long way from creating robots that  can pay taxes or have children, so parents will stay in high-demand for a long time.

 

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