Table of Contents
With recent reports predicting that the educational robots market will reach USD 8.6 billion by 2030, one may not automatically assume that robot pets will be included in the category. The types of educational robots that would usually come to mind are humanoid robots, AI robots, social robots, and service robots. However, much research and studies have been conducted to determine how robot pets can function as “serious toys” for educational settings and in various classroom uses.
In this article, we will discuss the various uses of robot pets in educational settings and the learning benefits they give to students.
Robot pets have other functions beyond companionship and giving cuddles. There are robot pets specifically designed to aid in learning and stimulate the brains of their users — and such is the case for STEM-learning robotic pet toys. These robot pets aim to enhance the learning experience for students may it be from basic coding to advanced programming.
The Austin Peay State University College of STEM has even purchased a robot dog to promote STEM learning for their students. Said robot dog is capable of advanced programming languages (including C++ and Python) and can be programmed by students to perform specific tasks and follow instructions.
However, one does not need to purchase such an advanced robot to teach STEM. The Thames & Kosmos My Robot Pet Tumbling Hedgehog is an entry-level robot pet that can also be used in classroom settings for students ages 7 and above to take an interest in such a field.
Aside from teaching STEM, robot pets with artificial intelligence capabilities are also being used to aid students in Engineering Technology, Computer Science, Physics, and Astronomy. These robot pets can contribute to the mental learning of students by offering their technology and features to provide quick and accurate information and opportunities for exploration.
With how fast-paced digital demands and developments are, educational institutions and classroom settings are also using robot pets to introduce digital technologies to students. These robot pets are seen as developing robot toys that can update themselves with the latest tech and digital developments. As a result, the robot pets expose students to various digital concepts, languages, and settings that can be useful later on in honing their skills, interests, and possible careers.
Robot pets can make for great companions and if you translate that to the educational setting, you get a trusty teaching assistant. Such was the case in Gwinnett Country Elementary School where they ‘hired’ a robot dog to teach lessons to third-graders. After conducting a lesson about St. Patrick’s Day, reports indicate that the students showed increased focus and interest in the robot dog.
The use of robot pets as teaching aids and assistants can be classified as an ‘edutainment’ tool. Mixing education and entertainment, robot pets can balance the two elements to capture the attention and interest of students. As this is still a novelty, retention of the lessons can still be explored. Nonetheless, this is one use of robot pets that can be further explored as it is showing great promise so far.
It’s no surprise that one of the main uses and benefits of robot pets in educational settings is to provide emotional relief for students and teachers. A study shows how robotic pets helped decrease the stress levels of students during finals weeks after their interaction with them.
The Midwestern University created a robot petting zoo in the main library of the campus where students could play, pet, and interact with the robot pets, which led to a significant increase in happiness and relaxation amongst participants.
Aside from these uses and benefits, robot pets also provide emotional and social support to students. Preschoolers exhibit signs of emotional connection and security with robot pets as they interact with them. This could be in the form of empathy or as a ‘security blanket’ when one is feeling upset. Students would also use robot pets as tools to help form connections with other classmates — acting as icebreakers, especially when a student is on the shy side.
There are various uses of robot pets in educational settings. They can be used to mentally stimulate students, become teaching assistants, and provide emotional support. As robot pets and robotics in general continue to develop, it’s interesting to see how these robotic “toys” can be used in the field of education.