Social robots hold great promise as companions and peer learners for children, yet little is known about how they can be best designed for this population, what interaction scenarios can benefit from their use, and how they might fit into learning activities and environments. We aimed to close this gap by designing a learning-companion robot to augment guided reading activity and examined the robot’s impact on an in-home reading experience. In this paper, we compared the experiences of early adolescent children aged 10 to 12 years (N = 24) who completed guided reading activities either with a learning-companion robot or as a paper-based activity in a 2-week-long, in-home field study. We found similar reading frequency and duration in both conditions and that both guided reading activities were described as positive experiences that helped to build reading skill and to sustain engagement. Children who read with the learning-companion robot further reported that the activities supported reading comprehension and motivated them to read and indicated a deepening social connection (i.e., companionship or affiliation) with the robot. We conclude that, rather than the activity falling off after a novelty effect, our simple prototype social robot is capable of preserving the benefits of an existing in-home learning activity while transforming the reading experience into a valuable, social one. Our findings contribute to an understanding of how we might capitalize on the capacity of social robots to serve as a transformative learning tool as robots become more widely available to the public.
Source: Sciencemag.org – Science Robotics Latest Content