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Arduino-Based Patricc Brings Social Robotics to Toddlers as an Alternative to Tablet-Based Learning

Arduino-Based Patricc Brings Social Robotics to Toddlers as an Alternative to Tablet-Based Learning


A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University have investigated an alternative to tablet-based education for toddlers, turning to robotics, radio frequency ID (RFID) tags, and interchangeable puppets in an effort to increase parent-child focus.

Tablet computers are a great tool for children, offering interactivity and motion which can capture their interest for longer than a printed book - but in doing so may draw the parent's attention, too, with the parent focused more on the tablet than on the child. The engineers believe that an educational robot, dubbed Patricc, could be the answer — keeping children engaged while making it easier for the parent to focus on the child.

Tablet-based education typically sees both parent and child focused on the tablet; with Patricc, the researchers found that the child focused on the robot while the parent focused on the child — so called "triadic interaction."

"While social robots for education are slowly being integrated in many scenarios, ranging from higher-education, through elementary school and kindergarten, the use case of robots for toddlers in their homes has not gained much attention," the researchers write. "In this contribution, we introduce Patricc, a robotic platform that is specifically designed for toddler-parent-robot triadic interaction. It addresses the unique challenges of this age group, namely, desire for continuous physical interaction and novelty.

"We conducted an evaluation study with 18 parent-toddler pairs and compared Patricc to similar tablet-based interactions. Our quantitative and qualitative analyses show that Patricc promotes significantly more triadic interaction, measured by video-coded gaze, compared to the tablet and that parents indeed perceive the interaction as triadic."

Patricc is made up of a 3D-printed skeleton dressed in a puppet costume - allowing for multiple characters to be used on a single Patricc unit, and giving it its name: "Platform for TRiadic Interaction with Changeable Characters." The robot is given interactivity through five RFID readers located within its housing, controlled by an Arduino microcontroller. RFID-equipped props can be placed in the five positions on the housing, and the absence of a prop is assumed to mean the child has picked it up. The total bill of material is estimated at around $500, primarily due to the cost of the eight servos which give it motion, plus $50 per puppet costume.

More information on Patricc is available as part of the proceedings of the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction 2020 (HRI'20), and is available from the ACM under open-access terms.

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