Aside from engaging with children on the social and emotional level, these robots will soon enrich children’s cognitive skills, particularly at home. “Robots will potentially help children with things like math problems and learning to read,” Borenstein says.
Robots will also be helpful in children learning languages because they will allow a degree of language immersion at home that children don’t normally receive in the classroom, Admoni says. What’s more, research shows robots, such as the furry, literacy-minded Tega, can help preschool age children improve primary language skills and build greater vocabularies through storytelling activities.
In part, robots are great tutors for language and other primary school subjects because they’re the epitome of patience. “Even the most well-intentioned and kind teacher, mother, or father has a limit,” Shen says. “Once you repeat something for the 10-millionth time, you’re not going to want to do it again. But robots don’t have that problem and children love the repetition.”
Somewhat paradoxical, robots are sometimes more effective tutors when they’re playing dumb. Scientists in Japan found that children learned English vocabulary words better when robots made mistakes and the children had to correct their mechanized study partners, likely because doing so boosts self-confidence and reinforces existing knowledge.