New Features Of Telepresence Robots For Learning And Teaching

Telepresence Robots For Teaching And Learning
Andrey Suslov/
Summary: The article describes exactly what characteristics of telepresence robots are necessary for effective teaching of students who cannot attend the lesson for various reasons.

How To Teach Or Learn If You Are Sick?

Schoolchildren and students get sick, like all people. But the peculiarity of this case is that skipping classes can significantly affect academic performance and even the ability to continue studying since the duration of recovery from illness can be weeks or months. There are also sports injuries that require long-term rehabilitation. Of course, you can hire a personal teacher, take a sabbatical, ask to postpone the date of exams, catch up in the summer. That's what they used to do before telepresence robots came along.

There is also another category of students who cannot attend regular educational institutions. These are, for example, people with heart disease or poor immunity, blood clotting disorders, as well as with disabilities. They cannot attend regular educational institutions and must study from the comfort of their homes. The list of diseases, the presence of which gives the right to study at home, contains about 60 items.

There are also situations when a person is healthy, but lives in another city or a remote village, from where it is impossible to get to the place of study due to weather conditions or lack of transport.

In all the cases described, the problem occurs: How to participate in the learning process without leaving your home or hospital.

The Solution

The problem is solved with the help of a telepresence robot. A student at home can connect to the robot at school. After that, the robot becomes their "avatar," which can be present at the lesson, listen and take notes of lectures, look at experiments in chemistry and physics lessons, answer questions from the teacher, and perform tests. The student can take photos of written works and immediately send them to the teacher for checking.

During recess, such an "avatar" can move along the corridor, drive up to friends, communicate with them using eye contact. The possibility of real communication supports the morale of the remote student; they do not feel socially isolated. Moreover, they feel like a hero because not everyone in the class has their own avatar.

The telepresence robot differs from the usual video communication by the presence of wheels, i.e., the ability to move. This allows the student to move from class to class, change the angle from which they see the board and the teacher, choose a suitable place in the classroom, "look into the eyes" of students and the teacher.

Robot control is easily mastered by children because all of them know how to play computer games and robot control differs from them very slightly.

The New Problems

The use of telepresence robots in school is associated with several problems. First of all, schools rarely have good WiFi. Therefore, video communication may be interrupted or be at a low resolution.

In order to clearly see everything that is written in chalk on the board, you need to put the robot close to the board or use a camera with magnification or with an additional, mounted lens that is attached to the tablet. The magnification of the lens is selected so that the board occupies the entire screen of the monitor that the student is looking at.

If the school has high doorsteps, then the robot will have to be carried through them. Not all the robots on the market today can do that.

The maintenance of the robot is reduced to turning it on and off with one button and several actions with the tablet, as well as connecting it to WiFi. However, it is desirable that someone digs into the nuances of operation, can solve possible problems, and make sure that the robot is always charged.

The Following Requirements For The Robot Follow From The Above

  1. The robot should be able to zoom in on the video to see everything that is written on the blackboard. This is the main thing.
  2. It should be possible to record a video or photo so that the student can view it all after the lesson ends.
  3. The robot should be able to move between rooms in the school, including moving through door sills and between tables in the room.
  4. The robot should have a low price so that parents with even a small income can purchase it.

Currently, there are several types of telepresence robots in the market, but not all of them meet the listed requirements. So, for example, only one of them (the BotEyes robot) can overcome doorsteps and record video, and also has the lowest price to date (USD 1400). Many robots can zoom in on the video and move on a flat surface. They can be found on the RobotShop website.