Integrating robots into education brings a number of potential benefits to the sector, such as enhancing the learning experience for students, and helping users prepare for a changing and advancing technological landscape. Here we talk more about the PRO-CARED project for robots in education that PAL Robotics partners in, and the upcoming project pilots where social robot ARI will interact with multiple users as an education robot and help them to test their Catalan language skills.

PRO-CARED: user interaction and personalisation in education through robotics

In the PRO-CARED EU project, PAL Robotics has been involved with Research Scientist Antonio Andriella to develop a new enabling technology: personalisation. Personal robots are ready to create a unique, personally tailored educational experience and can provide a powerful tool for teachers to enhance their lessons.

The PRO-CARED project believes that robots’ perceptual capabilities are ready for these interactions and what is missing is further development of HRI (Human-Robot Interaction) and personalisation. The project partners including PAL Robotics, are designing and developing mechanisms for personal robots to proactively interact with students, providing them with adaptive and personalised assistance in an educational context.

Specifically, the PRO-CARED project pilots aim to explore the impact of proactive robot behaviour in public spaces and whether the robot can act as a social catalyst to promote the importance of the Catalan language and help connect people with the right institutions to further their studies.

At the same time, the PRO-CARED project also investigates how personalisation can come into place when a robot acts as a teacher whose objective is to adapt its behaviour to each student’s learning style, pace, and preferences, as well as make learning more relevant and meaningful by tailoring content to individual interests and abilities.

PRO-CARED pilots with social robot ARI to interact with groups and test users’ Catalan language level

We had the chance to interview Antonio Andriella about the upcoming pilots in the PRO-CARED project where the robot will interact with groups as an education robot and help users to test their Catalan language level.

Antonio told us, “the PRO-CARED project is focused on proactive robot behaviour and here we are interested in learning not only the kind of behaviour the robot will perform but also when it’s the right moment to engage. Finally, we aim to explore which level of autonomy the robot shall interact with.” 

“This particular aspect has not been widely investigated yet, but it plays a crucial role in both short-term and long-term interactions with robots. In short-term interactions, it influences the first impression humans form of the robot. In long-term interactions, the robot’s ability to personalise its behaviour makes the interaction more enjoyable and engaging. Within the project, we have been working hard on integrating PAL Robotics’ ARI robot for an education setting.” 

Antonio explained that the first experiment for the PRO-CARED project will be a pilot study, telling us, “the team will test the technology by deploying ARI in a public space – one of the university buildings at UPC (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya). The robot will try to catch the attention of people passing by the hallway with the primary goal of getting them to interact with the robot. ARI will then assess their level of Catalan.”

“Later, the data collected will be processed to identify the best robot behaviour for a given situation. For this to be successful, the robot needs to be capable of understanding the dynamics of the people in front of it – are they looking at the robot, are they in a group, are they talking to each other,  and so on. Essentially, understanding what the group dynamics are. This will act as a preview for the official experiment which will follow.” 

Antonio continued, “Based on the results of the pilot study, the robot will learn how to commence interaction using state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms. This official project experiment will take place in April and here we will be testing in a real-life everyday setting. We aim to conduct this study for one or two months.” 

ARI robot by PAL Robotics in action

ARI to be used as a representative to raise awareness of the importance of language

“ARI will be used as a representative to raise awareness of the importance of language – in order for people to test their Catalan language level, as a good level is a requirement for most of the public jobs in the local Catalonia region.”

Antonio concluded, “experiments such as this one are also an important part of developing the interaction skills of social robots that can be applied in any open context – as well as in education, for example in events, and in other public spaces.” 

PAL Robotics are continuously developing the skills of their social robots in new scenarios, both with project partners and commercial clients. One recent example of this was with social robot ARI, at Desigual, the global fashion retailer. ARI interacted and engaged with customers in Desigual’s store in Barcelona city centre.

We would like to thank Antonio Andriella for taking the time to talk with us. If you have any questions for the team at PAL Robotics don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Visit our website to find out more about our social robots, including humanoid social robot ARI, and humanoid mobile manipulator robot TIAGo. For more articles and interviews, check out our blog on robotics and technology.

The PRO-CARED project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 801342 (Tecniospring INDUSTRY) and the Government of Catalonia’s Agency for Business Competitiveness (ACCIÓ).