Q&A Goren Gordon

Q&A Goren Gordon

Q&A Goren Gordon

What is the significance of robotics for learning?

I work with a special kind of robot called social robot. The goal of social robotics is to assist in social rather than physical interaction. Hence, they are designed and used in a social context with humans.

An emerging field is socially assistive robotics (SAR), which emphasize the help these robots can provide. Usually this field focuses on the elderly, service robots and education, mainly for children. I focus on the latter.

SAR for children can be used as tutors, i.e. teaching children content by presenting a curriculum, similar to a teacher. The use of robots in this context has many benefits, mostly that robots don’t tire, they are repeatable in execution and they can contain the recent advances in pedagogy research.

SAR for children can also be used as robot peers. These are portrayed as robotic companions and “play” or “learn” with the child. They are designed to behave as robot-companions and not tutors. This is my main research topic in social robots.

It has been shown that having a physical robot, as opposed to a virtual one, yields significant improvement in learning gains. It seems that the embodiment of the companion and its interaction in the physical and social world are important components in the social effects on learning.

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How do you respond to the many misconceptions leading to skepticism about the relation between robots and the learner?

The social robot companions are designed to help learners learn and, even in some of my studies, enhance their meta-cognitive skills such as curiosity and mindset. They are not there to replace children companions, teachers or parents. They are meant to be used when all of the above are not there and instead of mindless passive TV-time, or other interactive yet non-social tablet-time.

How is human and technological interaction changing?

Technology now comes into the social world in a myriad of ways, e.g. robots, virtual companions, VR, AR, etc. They will be used in many more ways in the new future. They can help in learning, managing the time and other helpful tasks.

Why Curiosity Lab? What is your vision?

My vision of the Curiosity Lab is to better understand, promote and harness the power of curiosity. I want to have a working model of normative curiosity-driven behavior. I would do this by developing model-based quantitative assessment tools of curiosity and studying curiosity dynamics and social nature. Then, the vision is to build curious robots to better understand how infants and children explore their own world. This, in my vision, will not only enable fully autonomous learning and adaptive robots, but also a better understanding of human curiosity. Using these social curious robots in educational scenarios will hopefully enable the affective personalization of socially assistive robots that promote curiosity in children.

Finally, after studying and better understanding normative curiosity-driven development, the model-based robotics approach will enable the performance of novel methodologies to study developmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD. By “tinkering” with parameters in the normative model, we will try to re-create a robot with developmental disorders. This will enable us to shed new light on possible causes of these disorders.. Furthermore, by having a “robot with ASD”, we can perform many interventions on it and select the best ones to try on ASD children. This can have a drastic effect on the search for proper interventions.

Curiosity is the “key” to motivate the learner, which has become a basic challenge to educators. How can robots contribute to change this serious current educational battle?

Socially curious robots can serve as companions to children and play as “role-models” of the curious child. By socially interacting with such robots, children can be dis-inhibited from their prior experiences that caused their decline in curiosity. Hopefully, they will “catch” curiosity from their robotic peers and start expressing more curiosity. The goal is to have these robot companions both at home and in the classroom, to augment the teacher’s role as educator and role-model.

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