LBS researcher Dr Seyed Mohammed SadeghKhaksar was recently interviewed by Channel 9 News Melbourne on his research with social robot Matilda.
Matilda was originally co-created by LBS’ Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovations (RECCSI) in partnership with Japan’s NEC Corporation and Kyoto University. Matilda is a communication robot with emotional intelligence. Matilda can recognise human voices and faces, detect emotions, read and recite text, dance and play music. It can read a person’s feelings by the tone in their voice and interact accordingly. Matilda was previously used successfully in aged care research. Early this year, RECCSI teamed up with Waratah Special Developmental School to trial Matilda as a classroom companion.
Matilda in the classroom
The current research aims to investigate how social robots like Matilda can emotionally and socially engage students with special needs (e.g. children with autism), enable them with personalised services and empower them to live more independently in classrooms. Matilda’s personalised services could be used to create a more effective teaching environment and provide tailored support to teachers and students. Dr Khaksar is the Research Project Manager and said that “this study is about assisting both teachers and students, especially those who have special needs, who face particular challenges in their learning environments.”
According to Dr Khaksar, the results are positive. “As soon as the kids see Matilda in the classroom, their faces light up and they become more interested and engaged”. Matilda is patient, non-judgemental and interactive which allows students to form a bond with it. “The robot can speak to students, read and act out characters in books, as well as set tasks. But it can also tirelessly repeat things hundreds of times if necessary”. Matilda is not only enabling students to develop better communication, but also social and cognitive skills.
RECCSI Research Manager and Associate Professor Debbie Chu said this type of technology is in high demand. “La Trobe is at the forefront in creating solutions for social innovation. Our hope is that La Trobe’s robotic technology, which delivers emotional assistance and companionship over physical services, will be employed widely across Australia”.
Watch the interview: here
Some information in this blog was originally published by LTU News