It’s just like something out of the movies, but not quite as scary. This week, Pepper the robot spoke to MPs in the UK House of Commons to discuss the future of AI and technology in classrooms. But don’t be alarmed, the robot’s questions and answers were all pre-programmed – it was simply its presence that was needed to make an impact.
The robot (named ‘Pepper’) is currently based at Middlesex University and is used to interact with students, appear at shows and events and assist the elderly and students with special needs. A small number of schools and universities in the UK already have their very own Pepper, which is a huge investment considering it costs anywhere between £10,000 and £12,000 (around $18,000 to $22,000) and has a range of abilities including making eye contact and face recognition for the human touch.
The Education Committee are already proposing that more investment in technology (and AI in particular) is needed in education and Pepper was simply there to answer their questions – all of which were clearly spoken by Labour MP James Frith (pre-prepared we might add again).
So, what was the point in all of this? Well, Pepper was really there for its looks rather than a demonstration of the advances of AI technology – with Oxford University’s Head of AI Prof. Michael Woolridge telling the BBC it was an “embarrassing gimmick” giving AI a “bad name” (well, anyone can answer pre-prepared questions!) However, the robot did bring to light the importance of educating students about technology especially with the continual need to re-skill the workforce to keep up.
What do you think about robots in our classrooms? Comment below!