Quebec robot named Nao helping students with learning difficulties

Nao is a little robot which held its own news conference in Montreal on Thursday to outline its accomplishments.

The robot can see, hear and recognize humans

Nao is a humanoid robot driven by artificial intelligence. (Radio-Canada)

This isn't your average teacher's assistant.

Nao is a little robot which held its own news conference in Montreal on Thursday to outline its accomplishments, particularly in dealing with students with autism spectrum disorder or those with learning difficulties.

The humanoid robot, which has visited elementary and secondary schools in Quebec this year, is composed of cameras, sensors and microphones, and it can see and hear. It can also recognize humans and interact with them.

Nao, 58 centimetres tall — a little over knee high — is driven by artificial intelligence and is described as humanoid because it spontaneously answers questions and recognizes certain human emotions.

Université de Montréal Prof. Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair in Technologies in Education, came up with the idea of using Nao to help students learn.

Karsenti asked students in disadvantaged neighbourhoods to program Nao with different degrees of difficulty.

He says the robot has given them much-needed skills for the 21st century, as well as self-confidence.

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