Robovie a 1.2-meter robot developed by ATR joined the science class at Higashihikari Elementary School in Japan on Feb. 5 for the start of a 14-month experiment. Data will be gathered to improve the robot’s ability to interact naturally with multiple people. The robot has been given facial photos and voiceprints of 119 fifth graders and teachers. On the first day of class, Robovie greeted the students, and was asked by a teacher to answer what a “wound up copper wire” was. It answered, “A copper coil. It’s part of the motors that move my body.” During class Robovie waited at the back of the room, recognizing the faces of the students and recording their movements. After class it shook hands with sixth graders and answered their questions.
As part of research into the co-existence of humans and robots, the experiment with Robovie is being carried out at a school because the environment allows for the acquisition of large amounts of data from the movements of the children. The robot has been given facial photos and voiceprints of 119 fifth graders and teachers. Robovie’s daily conversation level is equivalent to a five-year-old human, but it has been programmed with the entire contents of a fifth-grade science textbook. This is the first experiment using a robot at a school to last over a year.