A recently published study by Latitude Research, the LEGO Learning Institute and Project Synthesis shows that kids today accept and probably expect that someday they’ll all be able to have friends like Data, the cute sentient android in Star Trek: The Next Generation. (All right, I thought he was cute; perhaps you didn’t think so.)
In fact, kids welcomed the idea of having a robot friend to play with them and help them learn. From this study, it would appear that science fiction authors have once again predicted the way that humans would embrace and humanize technology. What interested researchers the most was the way that students readily humanized machinery.
Whereas most adults tend to think of robots as machines (like those that put cars together on an assembly line), kids tended to place robots in their peer groups and indicate that it would be fun to have a robot friend.
The study, called Robots @ School, surveyed 348 students ages 8 – 12 in 6 countries. The students were asked to answer the question “What if robots were a part of your everyday life—at school and beyond?” in text and pictorial form.
You can see some of the responses in this flickr stream. The results of their qualitative research allowed the researchers to produce the following infographic, which shows the students’ thoughts about robots and their place in society.
I wonder about the implications of this study. What would a teacher’s role in the classroom be in the future if the children could bring their robot friends to school to help them learn? How would parents adjust? How would the social milieu change? Could kids bring Data to school with them someday? Kids think so – and adults need to think about that.