Research Group Studies What Kids Want in a Robot

When most people think of robots operating in their life, they see it all, quite naturally from an adult’s perspective. But what about kids? If they could have a robot now, what would they want from it? Latitude Research decided to find out. First, they partnered with the LEGO Learning Institute and Project Syntheses, then all of those in the group put together a study whereby kids from all over the world would be asked one simple question: “What would happen if robots were a part of your everyday life?” To answer, the kids could reply with spoken and written words, or if they preferred, they could simply draw a picture. The results, according to Rebecca Boyle in a post on Popular Science, “…are of course pretty cute, but some are remarkably deep and others borderline sad.”

We all know that if adults answered the question there would be lots of talk about performing housekeeping tasks and retrieving beers from the fridge and quite possibly some adult type activities in the bedroom. But children, because their lives revolve around different activities, quite naturally would want some very different things.

In all the team queried 348 children from six western countries, all of which were English speaking except France and Germany. The team says they didn’t include children from Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia, because it was their first go at it and found interviewing children in their native tongue easier. They promise that another experiment involving a much broader assortment of represented countries will be done soon.

At any rate, what’s important here are the answers, and while there isn’t space to list them all, the research team says that by far the number one answer the children gave was for assistance with learning schoolwork, though many different means for achieving that request were evident. Some suggested a robot would be more patient than teachers or parents, while others felt it would be less embarrassing to be grilled by a robot when they don’t know the answers. Many also apparently thought a robot would be a lot smarter than grownups.

After schoolwork, the next most popular requests of robots appeared to be as a stand-in for busy or absent parents. Many children replied that they would like to have a robot that would listen to what they had to say, that would read to them, or even in some cases, feed them.

The research team noted that the intent of the study was to see how the next generation might view robots that inhabit our lives with us, but found that after listening to the answers given, it appeared it was more of a social experiment.

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