The Robot-Influenced Future, As Imagined By Children

Kids have unbridled imaginations and a healthy dose of optimism about what the future might hold. When they were asked about how robots might help them learn and work better, they had some potentially prescient answers.


Today’s adults have lived most (if not all) of their lives without interacting with humanoid robots; it’s only recently that bots like Asimo and Nao have entered popular consciousness. Children, on the other hand, have no reason to believe that advanced robots won’t dramatically influence their lives, and soon. A study (PDF) from research consultancy Latitude recently asked 348 kids ages 8 to 12 from across the world to describe and illustrate an answer to the following question: “What if robots were a part of your everyday life–at school and beyond?” The answers (pictures are in the slideshow above) reveal both how we might interact with robots in the future, and how human educators can do a better job.


Robots Can Make Learning Fun

Unsurprisingly, 75% of the robots dreamed up by the kids were patient, emotionally supportive, and made learning fun. Says one 9-year-old boy in Germany: “When I get home, my robot helps me with my homework. My mother and father [came in and said] no video games now, homework first, but when they saw that I was already finished and had done everything correctly, they were glad that I had made friends with the robot.” The robot provides the patience that humans just don’t have.

Robots Take Care Of The Dirty Work

Dirty dishes? No problem. A quarter of kids surveyed imagined that their robots could deal with chores and boring work so that they might be freed up to focus on learning and creative activities.

Robots Are Our Friends

Most robots thought up by kids had natural social intelligence and plenty of knowledge to share. Two-thirds of respondents thought that their robots could be friends and role models. One 10-year-old French boy describes his dream robot: “He created books for me to read, and we played with toy cars. He keeps my secrets. I can tell him anything, and he gives me advice.”


Robots Are Cool

I think we can all agree that this one is already true. Unlike with young human geeks, the intelligence of robots makes them cool in social settings. An 8-year-old girl in the U.S. imagines that her robot is “really smart and everyone likes to talk to her. She has a funny voice, but we do not tease her.”

Latitude postulates that educators can use the results of the study to see how academic pacing could be more personalized, that kids recognize when academic work isn’t relevant, and that sometimes, self-directed work is a good thing. There’s no better way to personalize pacing and increase self-direction than to use today’s robots–including laptops, iPads, and tools like Lego Mindstorms. When the day comes that we all have humanoid robots, those will help out, too.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more